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Korea could assist SL to reach pinnacle of development – Ambassador Woonjin JEONG

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By Lynn Ockersz

‘The time is right for Sri Lanka to change and take a leap to a higher level. Korea is the very country that can assist Sri Lanka to reach the pinnacle of national development and prosperity. Korea’s economic miracle, “The Miracle on the Han River” is a story of overcoming many hardships by the Korean people that led to Korea’s national transformation from poverty to prosperity. As a true friend, Korea would like to share the technological know-how and resources to help Sri Lanka to achieve “the Miracle on the Kelani River”, ambassador to the Republic of Korea in Sri Lanka Woonjin JEONG said.

Speaking to ‘The Island Financial Review’ recently in an exclusive interview ambassador JEONG also said that besides providing growing markets for Sri Lanka’s rubber, coconuts, graphite and apparels, among many other items, Korea-Sri Lanka tourism links are another area in bilateral economic ties that could be further developed. He said that 13,000 Koreans visited Sri Lanka last year. ‘But this is only 0.5 per cent of the total tourism in Korea.’

The interview:

In which broad directions do you hope to take Korea-SL ties?

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1977, Korea and Sri Lanka have come a long way together to form a cordial bilateral partnership. We have been true friends to each other. Our relations have much potential to grow. 

Sri Lanka is not only one of Korea’s priority ODA cooperation partner countries, but also one of the top five countries that are benefitted from the Economic Development Cooperation Fund of Korea. The sum of investment in various ODA projects and grants for Sri Lanka since 1987 is over one billion USD. The Sri Lanka office of KOICA has assisted and funded commercial and infrastructure projects of Sri Lanka in the various fields such as education, transportation, water resources, sanitation and regional development in Sri Lanka. 

The engagement in labour cooperation has also been impressive in recent years. 23,000 Sri Lankan employees are presently in Korea. Around 520 million US dollars were transmitted by them from Korea to Sri Lanka last year. They greatly contribute to the economic advancement of both countries. Since COVID-19 outbreak, the process of departure to Korea for employment has been suspended. However, it resumed last September and I invited the first batch of Sri Lankan migrant workers who were going to the Republic of Korea to express my appreciation for their contribution to uplift the economies of both countries.

Our cultural exchanges also have intensified over the years. The Korea Week 2020 was conducted virtually on digital platforms to provide an immersive experience of the Korean culture. I witnessed the enthusiasm and interest among the Sri Lankan participants. It is evident that our cultural bonds have grown stronger over the years.

I hope to further expand our economic ties, labour cooperation and cultural exchanges during my term as Ambassador to Sri Lanka.

What are the best investment opportunities for Korean corporates in SL?

Korea was Sri Lanka’s biggest foreign investor during the 1980s and early 90s. I believe that it is an opportune moment for Korea and Sri Lanka to revive investments, learn from each other’s experiences and intensify mutually beneficial trade and FDI. Sri Lanka is endowed with natural resources and high quality human resources which are very complimentary with the capital and technology of Korea.

The South Korean economy is the 10th largest in the world with a GDP of $1.6 billion; the exports have increased by 750 times between 1970 and 2018. Korea’s economic miracle, so called ‘The Miracle on Han River’ is a story of overcoming many hardships by the Korean people that led to the national transformation from poverty to prosperity. As a true friend, Korea would like to share the technological know-how and resources to help Sri Lanka achieve “the Miracle on Kelani River”. I can say that it is the right time for Sri Lanka to change and take a leap to a higher level. Korea is the very country that can assist Sri Lanka to reach the pinnacle of national development and prosperity.

I invite Korean investors to explore opportunities especially in the key sectors including agriculture, renewable energy, infrastructure, LNG, digital economy and so on. There is more potential for the business opportunities to expand between our two countries.

Likewise, what are the best opportunities for SL businesses in Korea?

Import and export relationship is also important as it is two wheels of the same vehicle. Sri Lanka is famous in Korea for rubber, coconut and graphite. Furthermore, apparel products including leather, fabric, and other agricultural items make a significant contribution to the Korean economy. I would also like to mention that Sri Lankan tea is very popular among Koreans for its high quality and distinct taste. 

Tourism is also another main aspect; 13,000 Koreans visited Sri Lanka last year. It is only 0.5% of the total tourism in Korea. I am confident that more tourists will arrive in Sri Lanka to enjoy the charm and beauty of the island as Sri Lanka was ranked as the top country to visit by the famous travel guidebook publisher,” Lonely Planet” in 2019.

How are Lankans in Korea contributing to Korea’s well being?

Approximately 23,000 Sri Lankan workers are employed in Korea under the Employment Permit System (EPS). The proactive engagement of the EPS centre has led to the first delegation of migrant workers heading for Korea and it has strengthened the strong bilateral relations of the two countries amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Republic of Korea is maintaining a strong policy of equal pay for equal work which applies to both Korean nationals and foreign workers including Sri Lankan people. Sri Lankan migrant workers have contributed greatly to uplift both economies. I consider them as civilian diplomats on Korean soil and the Republic of Korea is appreciative of their precious contribution to the Korean economy.

I hope to expand the labour collaboration between our two countries. 

S. Korea is one of the most creative countries. What are the keys to her success?

The Republic of Korea witnessed economic growth with the sheer hard work and dedication of its people. With the limited territory and natural resources, Korea has focused on education and investment on people. The strength of world-renowned enterprises such as Samsung, Hyundai and LG also empowered the Korean economy. With the technological advancement, Korea is a major force in several fields including smart devices, automotive, shipbuilding, and heavy industries. However primary industries such as mass agricultural production also contributed to the economic success in Korea.

The Korean cultural renaissance including K-pop and K- dramas have become popular globally and have also contributed to the economy and helped attract more tourists. Korea would like to share the success stories with Sri Lanka as Korea developed with limited resources, limited workforce. As the ambassador to the Republic of Korea, I love Sri Lanka, I love Sri Lankan people. I look forward to closely working with all of you to achieve our common goals. Let’s stay strong together!



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SLT Group posts stable revenue growth amidst adverse socioeconomic environment in first half 2022

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-Showcases resilience in business model-

Sri Lanka Telecom Group (SLT Group), the National ICT Solutions Provider, posted stable growth for the first half of 2022, with revenues increasing by 6% to Rs 52.9 Bn and a 19.8% increase in profit before tax (PBT) at Rs. 7.2 Bn against the same period last year, showcasing resilience in its business model amidst complex socioeconomic challenges facing the country.

Demonstrating operational efficiency, SLT Group’s EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation) went up to Rs. 20.9 Bn for the first half of 2022, recording a growth of 7.8% compared to the corresponding period of the previous year. The EBITDA Margin stood at 39.7% for the period under review.

Building on the success of the previous quarter, the SLT Group was able to maintain a positive momentum for Q2 2022 recording gains of 4% in operating profit when compared to the previous quarter. The Group recorded a foreign exchange gain of Rs. 135 Mn during the quarter due to the prudent foreign exchange strategies of the Group. However, profit after tax (PAT) declined by 26.5% in Q2 compared to the previous quarter, mainly owing to the increase in income tax expenses during the period.

The SLT Group continued its strategic plan implemented at the beginning of the year, consolidating its performance throughout Q2 as well. However, during the period from April to June, the Group faced several business growth challenges including an unprecedented economic crisis, import restrictions, inflationary pressures etc. Furthermore, ongoing investments were affected; new projects were also impacted due to the increase of operational costs and the energy and fuel crisis resulted in operational challenges. Overcoming uncertainties, the Group with resilience made headway in strategic investments, undertaking appropriate management controls, in addition to managing the revenue portfolio in multiple segments.

The Operating Cash Flows of the Group grew to Rs. 23.5 Bn, up by 21.2% year-on-year. The Group recorded a favourable cash and cash equivalents position of Rs. 27 Bn as at the end of the reporting period. SLT Group’s contribution to the Government of Sri Lanka during the first half of 2022 amounted to Rs. 14 Bn. in direct and indirect taxes including levies and dividends.

SLT Group Chairman, Rohan Fernando said, “The period under review has been one of the most challenging periods that SLT-MOBITEL has faced in recent times exacerbated by a tough operating environment. However, due to the agility in our business model to deliver growth and a motivated team effort, we have been able to successfully generate positive results.”

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Chevron Lubricants, Aitken Spence and Lanka IOC drive share market; turnover exceeds Rs. 5 billion

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne

The CSE gained over 1 per cent in mid-day trade yesterday pushed by Chevron Lubricants, Aitken Spence and Lanka IOC. The market remained extremely bullish yesterday too with mixed reactions in indices while the turnover exceeded the Rs 5 billion level. However, profit- takings were noted in certain blue-chip companies due to witnessing some down trend in certain companies, market analysts said.

Investors continue to focus on Lanka IOC stocks; which company dominated the country’s energy sector over the last two months. Consequently, its profitability also increased in leaps and bounds due to the heavy demand for fuel. Lanka IOC is to set up 50 filling stations and the approval has been granted by the Energy Ministry, which is also one of the reasons for the company’s share market to move up, stock market analysts said.

However, there was selling in most of the main counters of the CSE due to fears of unprecedented tax increases in the interim budget, a top market analyst said.

Further, Chevron Lubricants’ share prices also appreciated due to market speculation that the company is planning to enter the energy/fuel business with a Chinese company.

Amid those developments stock market indices reflected mixed reactions. The All- Share Price Index reached the 8500 points mark. It gained 77.03 points (0.91 per cent) to end at 8500 and S and P SL20 declined marginally by 9.49 points (0.34 per cent) to end the day at 2784.66.

Turnover stood at Rs 5.3 billion with four crossings. Those crossings were reported in Watawala Plantations, which crossed 4.6 million shares to the tune of Rs 403 million; its shares traded at Rs 87, Citizens Development Business Finance 1.1 million shares crossed for Rs 217 million, its shares traded at Rs 200, Commercial Bank 2.6 million shares crossed to the tune of Rs 145 million and its shares fetched Rs 54 and Hunas Falls 625,000 shares crossed to the tune of Rs 25 million; its shares traded at Rs 40.

In the retail market, top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, Lanka IOC Rs 1.9 million (14 million shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 449 million (2.3 million shares traded), JKH Rs 252 million (2.1 million shares traded), LOLC Holdings Rs 135 million (226,000 shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 131 million (16.9 million shares traded), Chevron Lubricants Rs 130 million (one million shares traded) and LOLC Holdings Rs 88.5 million (9.8 million shares traded).

It is said that high net worth and institutional investor participation was noted in Melstacorp and Bairaha Farms. Mixed interest was observed in Lanka IOC, Expolanka Holdings and JKH, while retail interest was noted in Browns Investments, LOLC Finance and Agstar.

Energy sector was the top contributor to market turnover (due to Lanka IOC), while the sector index gained 15.15 per cent. Food, Beverage and Tobacco sector was the second highest contributor to the market turnover (due to Melstacorp).

Expolanka Holdings, JKH and LOLC Holdings were also included among the top turnover contributors. The share price of Expolanka Holdings lost Rs. 1.50 (0.73 per cent) to close at Rs. 203. The share price of JKH closed flat at Rs. 119.

Yesterday the Central Bank- announced US dollar buying rate was Rs 357.29 and its selling rate Rs 368.61.

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Unilever launches all new Surf Excel 2-in-1 laundry detergent with added fragrance of Comfort

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Standing as a testament to its commitment to innovation, to meet the changing needs of Sri Lankan consumers, Unilever Sri Lanka’s leading laundry detergent brand, Surf Excel, recently launched its latest 2-in-1 laundry detergent product, fused with the premium fragrance of Comfort Fabric Conditioner.

For the first time in Sri Lanka, consumers can experience Surf Excel’s all-inclusive superior stain removal with the premium fragrance of Comfort Fabric Conditioner, which gets rid of tough stains from deep within fabrics. Comfort’s premium floral fragrance will leave washed laundry smelling fresh and fragrant after every wash. The new formulation is also gentle on hands, making every handwash a pleasant experience.

Speaking on the launch, Sharmila Bandara, Marketing Director – Homecare and Nutrition, Unilever Sri Lanka said, “When children go out and play, they don’t just get their clothes dirty or stained, but experience life, observe, make friends, or learn to share. This helps them get stronger, develop well rounded personalities and brave the world outside.” She further added “For generations, Surf Excel has been taking care of tough stains for mothers around the country. Now, with the addition of the premium fragrance of Comfort, washing and wearing clothes will become a much more memorable experience for all.”

Surf Excel 2-in-1 with the added premium fragrance of Comfort Fabric Conditioner comes in a pink and blue pack and consumers may purchase the product in seven different sizes at retail outlets and supermarkets island wide.

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