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Japan’s SBI Group invests USD 2 mn in Watawala Dairy Farm

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Watawala Plantations Chief Executive Officer Binesh Pananwala

Sri Lanka’s leading agribusiness company Watawala Plantations PLC (CSE: WATA) announced that SBI Ven Holdings (Pte) Limited, the overseas private equity firm of SBI Holdings Inc., has invested USD 2 million in Watawala Dairy Farm through Watawala Dairy Limited (WDL).

The investment will further propel WATA’s dairy operations in the country and contribute to the economy by committing to the Government’s effort to promote local milk production and towards the goal of achieve self-sufficiency in milk. Furthermore, Watawala Plantations plans to utilise the investment to expand the herd (reach 1000 milking cows), further improve its infrastructure to function at optimal levels and to strengthen the upstream value chain.

The strategic venture offers SBI Ven Holdings an 11% stake in Watawala Dairy Ltd. Watawala Plantations, in the meantime, will invest Rs. 296 million to settle inter-company debt and strengthen the balance sheet of WDL.

The state-of-the-art dairy farm by Watawala Dairy Limited is a Board of Investment (BOI) registered project situated in Watawala, Ginigathhena. The project commenced in March 2016 as a pilot project called ‘Lonach Farm’ with 120 cattle, three cow houses and a milking parlour. Today, the farm manages a herd of 1600 dairy cattle, where 800 are milking cows. Using an ultramodern milking parlour system, the farm currently produces around 18,000 litres of fresh milk per day and 540,000 litres per month. Annually, the farm releases 6.5 million litres of milk to the local market, which is 3.5% of the annual Sri Lankan milk production.

Commenting on their latest association with Japan’s financial giant, Watawala Plantations Chief Executive Officer Binesh Pananwala said, “At a time where the investor confidence and sentiment have been greatly affected, SBI Ven Holdings’s investment on Watawala Dairy Limited brings in vital foreign direct investments (FDI) to Sri Lanka when it is much needed in the market and the economy. Not only this strategic investment paves a path for us to support the Government’s vision to promote local milk production and achieve self-sufficiency in milk by 2025, but it also validates our long term vision and investor-friendly corporate governance framework, helping us to build confidence and attract leading global equity firms like SBI Ven Holdings.”

WDL aims to drive sustainable production of fresh milk in Sri Lanka. The company is conscious that healthy husbandry covering sound animal health and welfare underpins high yields and quality of milk. The farm provides facilities to a healthy herd with feed supplements scientifically formulated by a global expert nutritionist with the construction of its feed mill to process the special cattle feed. Stringent hygiene farm management controls have been implemented within the farm, conforming to international standards, including adequate clean water, slurry, and effluent management systems.



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Business

CSE planning new product lines to attract investors in greater numbers

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By Lynn Ockersz

The CSE is planning to attract a greater number of investors to the stock market this year through the introduction of some new product lines. In order to increase the choice of instruments available to equity investors, the CSE intends to focus in the immediate term on instruments, such as, stock borrowing and lending and regulated short-selling, CSE CEO Rajeeva Bandaranaike said.

The latter instruments would help in generating more liquidity and trading among equity investors, not only in instances when the market is on its way up but also in a declining market as well, CEO Bandaranaike told The Island Financial Review in an exclusive interview recently.

The CEO also said that the CSE is aiming at leveraging the corporate debt market through the initiation of some new products. For example, Green Bonds, Perpetual Bonds and the facilitation of secondary trading of corporate bonds via repo trading.

Asked to indicate as to how these instruments would help the bourse going forward, Mr. Bandaranaike said that stock borrowing and lending, for instance, would facilitate and enable regulated short selling which will have the effect of increasing liquidity and trading among all categories of equity investors.

This will create opportunities for traders to make use of market volatility. Besides, investors holding long term portfolios could lend their stock and earn an interest with least effort on their part.

Asked to elaborate on the importance of Green Bonds, the CEO said that institutional investors in particular are currently focusing on ESG projects; that is, investors that are sensitive to environmental, social and governance concerns. Accordingly, the CSE would be catering to some important investor needs through the latter projects.

Meanwhile, in response to the question on how the digitization initiatives of the CSE have helped in ushering a more robust share market in Sri Lanka, CSE’s Chief Information Officer Chandrakanth Jayasinghe said it is the aim of the CSE to give progressive digital exposure to investors. There are two dimensions to be considered here the CIO said. First, more and more important features have been added to the CSE’s digital mobile App over the last two years.

The CIO added: ‘A revamped mobile App is now at hand to enable quicker and informed investment decisions. All the information required by the investor is now available via this App to enable him to enter the market. For example, we are linked to the Department of Registration of Persons. Digital on-boarding and digital signing etc have been enabled via the app. On a full digital basis investors can now interact with the CSE.

‘The investor is now connected to the CDS E-Connect via the CSE and the investor could access his/her stock portfolio, for instance, and access his/her monthly statements. They could also make changes to their profiles such their address changes via the mobile App. Research reports of brokers could be accessed by the same means, nominations could be effected through the same mechanism. It’s a total change: a 360-degree info hub has been created through the App.

‘Secondly, the CSE is a more agile digital organization. For instance, most of our back-end functions are fully robotized. AI is used in many operations. We use AI for compliance operations.

‘We are saddled with very much less paperwork. Over 90% of all account openings are effected through our mobile App. Most paper-based formalities have been done away with.’

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SriLankan Airlines unveils new and improved mobile App

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SriLankan Airlines has unveiled a new and improved mobile app that is designed for optimum user-friendliness. The enhanced app will afford customers greater ease and flexibility in managing their flight bookings, purchasing value-added services, enrolling for a FlySmiLes account and performing a variety of other tasks.

The new app provides greater autonomy for Customers through added features that are exclusive to the app. Customers will be able to choose their in-flight meal; reserve seats; change travel dates and sectors; buy value added services such as excess baggage, travel insurance and duty-free items; and check-in for flights well in advance.

The ability to manage flight bookings, even while on the move, remains entirely with passengers who will be empowered to exercise greater control in shaping their journey independently and dynamically. Customers’ in-app experience is inclined to be further enhanced with the new ‘My Trips’ feature. My Trips will organize and present important information that a customer requires for an upcoming flight in a timely fashion on the app’s homepage.

The homepage includes other up-to-minute information on the flight schedule and allows users to search and stay on top of the departure and arrival times of flights. Customers can also stay updated and not miss out on the latest deals and promotional fares.

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Brandix Manusathkara Thilina 2022

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Brandix Apparel Ltd., gave hope to 16,824 children of the Brandix family by gifting them school essentials including stationery and schoolbags necessary for the new school year, under its ‘Manusathkara Thilina’ 2022 initiative recently.

 Understanding the current need to support our team members, especially during the current crisis of rising stationery costs, the children of 10,933 Brandix Associates were recipients of Brandix’s unstinting efforts to inspire and support education for all. The 2022 programme is being held for the 7th consecutive year where children from pre-school to Grade 13 received stationery packs.

Malika Samaraweera, Group Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Brandix Apparel noted, “The beginning of the new school year is eagerly anticipated and exciting for all students. However, we realise that our employees, who are the backbone of our enterprise, are facing a daunting challenge to provide their children these essential items. We firmly believe in taking care of our communities and this year’s Manusathkara Thilina programme ensures these children have the tools and opportunity to learn and grow.”

 Begun in 2016, the Manusathkara School Essentials initiative seeks to drive home the importance of education among the children of Brandix employees. To-date, over 37,000 children have benefitted from the programme. The educational hampers gifted to the children comprise of stationery and other school necessities, enabling their success for the foreseeable future.

With the aim of driving social sustainability, the inspired team at Brandix continues their work towards Equal Opportunity and the Right to Education for All. Recognising that today’s challenges are wide-ranging and incredibly tough for many families, the school essential packs will enrich the lives of the beneficiary children and sustain their school education.

Supporting Sri Lanka’s aspiring youth towards continuity in their education, Brandix has also initiated an annual scholarship scheme under its ‘Manusathkara University Scholarship’ programme. Children who are high performers in the Advanced Level Examinations within the Brandix Model Villages are awarded scholarships to pursue their higher education and contribute towards Sri Lanka’s future workforce. The ‘Model Village’ concept was developed by Brandix to support the wellbeing of communities within a 10km radius of the company’s facilities.

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