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JKH pays modest Rs. 0.50 dividend despite Rs. 1.7 bn. first half loss

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John Keells Holdings PLC, the diversified conglomerate widely regarded as the strongest entity quoted on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Thursday announced a second interim dividend of 50 cents a share, on top of the first interim of one-rupee paid in November last year despite a group loss of Rs. 1.7 billion in the first half of the current financial year.

Analysts said that JKH’s strong balance sheet with a revenue reserve of nearly Rs. 65 billion had made this payment possible.

JKH Chairman Krishan Balendra said in his chairman’s review of the September quarter that the “group will follow its dividend policy which corresponds with the growth in profits, whilst ensuring that the company maintains adequate funds to ensure business continuity given the unprecedented nature of the current circumstances.”

He explained the dividend despite the negative bottom line to “the faster than anticipated recovery following the resumption of business activity in the country and the strong growth momentum witnessed across our group businesses with the exception of leisure.”

The declaration of this dividend reflects the cash generation capability of the Group’s diverse portfolio of businesses, he said.

The leisure segment of their business took the hardest blow with an EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest Tax, Depreciation and Amortization) of Rs. 2.6 billion in the first half of the current financial year.

Discussing this, he said although the Sri Lankan airport remains closed to-date for foreign arrivals, the resumption of domestic travel continued during the quarter, with all properties in the Sri Lankan Resorts segment recording an encouraging increase in month-on-month occupancy.

Despite the challenging operating environment, the City Hotels sector also exhibited a better than anticipated performance, primarily driven by the food and beverage and banqueting segments. However, the recent cluster outbreak of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka will impede this recovery should the current situation prevail, he warned.

 

Balendra summary of key operational and financial highlights of the September quarter was:

• The underlying performance of the Transportation, Consumer Foods, Retail and Financial Services industry groups continued its growth momentum witnessed in the latter part of the previous quarter, demonstrating a faster than anticipated recovery following the resumption of business activity in the country post the easing of lockdowns in May 2020.

• Group EBITDA excluding the Leisure industry group was Rs.4.50 billion during the second quarter of the year under review, which is a 15 per cent increase against the previous year [2019/20 Q2: Rs.3.91 billion].

• Given the strong recovery momentum in business activity and the generation of cash profits by the Group, a second interim dividend of Rs.0.50 per share, amounting to a payout of Rs.659 million, was declared to be paid on or before 7 December 2020. The declaration of this dividend reflects the cash generation capability of the Group’s diverse portfolio of businesses.

• The Leisure industry group continued to be impacted by the closure of the airport in Sri Lanka, although this has been mitigated, to an extent, by a resumption in domestic tourism, recovery in the banqueting, food and beverage segments and the opening of the airport in the Maldives in mid-July.

• The Frozen Confectionery, Beverage and Convenience Foods businesses recorded double-digit growth in EBITDA against the corresponding period of the previous quarter, continuing the trajectory witnessed in June.

• The Supermarket business continued its positive momentum with a strong rebound in sales and EBITDA, driven by the contribution from new outlets towards revenue growth and a pick-up in same store footfall post the easing of lockdown measures witnessed in the first quarter.

• Pace of construction at ‘Cinnamon Life’ continued to gain traction during the quarter. Post ascertaining the impact of COVID-19 on the overall timelines of the project to manage deliverables and the re-sequencing of work, it is expected that the hand-over of the residential apartments and office tower will commence on a staggered basis from the fourth quarter of 2020/21 onwards.



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Business

DFCC Bank facilitates the continued growth of Sri Lankan SMEs amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

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The unprecedented surfacing of the COVID-19 pandemic has left a lasting scar on the global population and economy. With no precise warning on the horizon, businesses everywhere were thrown into the deep end, and survival seemed uncertain during the peak of the pandemic. In Sri Lanka, a nation where SMEs form the integral backbone of the economy, the ill effects have been taking a heavy toll on businesses both fiscally and mentally.

However, we as Sri Lankans are resilient at our core, and with the integral support of frontline workers, officials, and essential services such as our banking partners, we set forth on a journey to assess, adapt and survive. One such story about perseverance through a valuable relationship comes from K.S.K. Menan of Star Food Store (Pvt) Ltd, and his trusted banking partner, DFCC Bank.

Emerging from humble beginnings, Menan’s story is one that inspires patriotism, and reaffirms the importance of giving back to your motherland. As a self-made entrepreneur, Menan was successfully engaged with the departmental store industry in the United Kingdom, when one day, he decided to leave everything there and come back to his home, Sri Lanka. He was on a mission to give back to the country that had given him so much, and that led to the birth of ‘Star Food Store’ in Kokkuvil, a supermarket equipped with all the necessary household essentials. DFCC Bank had been by his side throughout the entire journey until the opening of his outlet, and even more when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

“When Imoved back to Sri Lanka in 2016, the very first account I opened was with DFCC Bank, and with their support, I was able to open the first‘Star Food Store’ in November 2019. However, when COVID-19 struck, everything came to halt. When restrictions were relaxed, I faced multiple problems with bringing things back to how they were. DFCC Bank stepped in and gave me overdraft facilities, helped clear my cheques, and provided additional funds at a low interest rate”.

Today, Menan has been able to open a second Star Food Store outlet at Achchuveli in August 2020, and a third at Idaikkadu in February 2021. He states that expansion is the last thing most businesses consider during this turbulent time, however, the X factor that has allowed him to do this is his banking partner.

“The confidence an entrepreneur gains with the right banking partner is immeasurable, and I have been able to find that with DFCC Bank. They have always gone out of the way to ensure my venture’s continuity, from sending someone from the branch immediately if there is an issue with the card machine during business hours, or even understanding that loose change is important for a supermarket and sending bags of coins from the Colombo branch for business use. I now have plans of constructing a state-of-the-art shopping complex in Jaffna, and look forward to working with DFCC on this project”.

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Covid-19 third wave fears dampen stock market

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne 

The CSE witnessed a steep decline following worries over the possible outbreak of a  Covid 19 third wave in the country and the continuation of selling pressure for certain stocks in the market, stock market analysts said.

CSE investors worried over 52 new cases being detected in two retail stores at Pamunuwa and at a state bank in Colombo at the end of the April holidays. Sri Lanka’s Health Ministry warned of a possible surge in COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks, market analysts said.

  Consequently, the All Share Price Index declined by 2.9 percent and S and P SL20 dropped by three percent. Major companies sought after by investors negatively contributed to both indices during the day. According to  market analysts,  these companies  were:  LOLC (27 negative points),  Expolanka (19 negative points), Vallibel One (12 negative points), Hayleys (11 negative points) and JKH (10 negative points).

All Share Price Index went down by 198.39 points and S and P SL20 down by 93.89 points. Turnover stood at Rs. 3.7 billion with a single crossing. The crossing was reported in Ceylon Cold Stores (CIS), which crossed 60000 shares to the tune of Rs. 35.4 million, its shares traded at Rs. 594. 

In the retail market, five companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were: Browns Investments Rs. 717.6 million (114 million shares traded), Expolanka Rs. 480 million (9.8 million shares traded), Hayleys Rs. 392 million (five million shares traded), Dipped Products Rs. 389 million (6.9 million shares traded) and LOLC Rs. 193 million (587,000 shares traded). During the day 197 million share volumes changed hands in 31305 transactions.  

Sri Lanka rupee quoted firmer around 192/194 levels to the US dollar in the spot market on Tuesday, while bond yields slightly eased, dealers said. Sri Lanka rupee last closed at 194/198 levels to the US dollar in the spot market on Monday. The Central Banks Telegraph Transfer rates stand at 187.93/191.97 levels below the spot rates on Monday.

Sri Lanka’s rupee has come under pressure amid money printing and low-interest rates, despite the worst import controls since the 1970s, observers said.

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Business

SAT launches F5 portfolio to deliver secure digital experiences

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(At left) : Edgar Dias, Regional Vice President of Channels and Partnerships, Asia Pacific, F5. (At right) : Sanjaya Padmaperuma, CEO of SAT.

South Asian Technologies (Pvt) Ltd, announces its appointment to be a distributor for F5 within Sri Lanka and Maldives to deliver secure digital experience to enterprises.

The cutting-edge technology is a portal for delivering applications and data with greater agility, security, availability, performance, and scalability.

F5’s portfolio of automation, security, performance, and insight capabilities empowers customers to create, secure, and operate adaptive applications that reduce costs, improve operations, and better protect users.

“With the increasing necessity for digitalisation in the workspace, now more than ever, organisations need proven solutions to help secure their businesses. Adding F5 to our existing portfolio gives South Asian Technologies, a more omniscient opportunity to equip our partners and customers with best-in-class application security and delivery solutions. As F5 enables adaptive applications, the SAT team is ecstatic at the prospect of securing our clientele with robust security offerings that have a proven history with Fortune 500 companies across the globe,” said Sanjaya Padmaperuma, CEO of SAT.

Every company today is in the digital experience business. In the wake of COVID-19, customer expectations are higher than ever, as the experiences garnered are the primary way that people interact and transact with just about every organisation at present.

F5 helps organisations deliver and secure the premium digital facilities that customers demand by enabling adaptive applications which, like living organisms, will naturally adapt based on their environment – growing, shrinking, defending, and healing themselves.

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