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Microsoft innovative educator programme making headway in Sri Lanka

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Microsoft is spotlighting the resilience and leadership of teachers worldwide who continue to provide remote learning, support vulnerable populations, and close gaps in education throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

Last year, Microsoft welcomed 4,366 Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts (MIEE) onboard its Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) program from the Asia region – a twofold increase from the previous year and the largest representation from the region to date. In Sri Lanka, 113 experts joined the ranks of MIE experts in the region.

The MIE program, which began in 2014, recognizes global educators who are using technology to pave the way for their peers for better learning and student outcomes. The program comprises more than one million educators worldwide who have joined the Microsoft Educator Center and successfully completed professional development online courses, accessed resources, and shared learnings with their colleagues.

“In these historic and challenging times, MIE Experts are true exemplars of innovative teachers who inspire with their student-centered approach, making a meaningful difference in the lives of their students,” said Hasitha Abeywardena, Country Manager, Microsoft Sri Lanka and Maldives. “These teachers constantly seek new and innovative ways to incorporate 21st century learning into their classrooms, including remote learning, which they made possible in spite of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. They are helping students build future-ready skills that will enable them to succeed in school, life and career.”



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JKH records EBITDA growth of  9% to Rs.10.41 billion in Q3

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Summarised below are the key operational and financial highlights of our performance during the quarter under review:

Group EBITDA recorded an improvement to Rs.10.41 billion during the quarter under review, which is an increase of 9 per cent against the comparative period of last year [2021/22 Q3: Rs.9.53 billion]. Excluding the impact of a one-off deferred tax charge at South Asia Gateway Terminals on account of the significant change in income tax rates, Group EBITDA increased by 17 per cent to Rs.11.17 billion in the third quarter of the financial year 2022/23.

Apart from the Consumer Foods and Property industry groups, the Group’s businesses recorded growth in EBITDA compared to the third quarter of the previous year.

The Transportation industry group recorded an increase in profitability due to its USD denominated revenue streams and resultant translation gains due to the depreciation of the Rupee as compared against the previous year.

Krishan Balendra Chairperson JKH

The groundwork on the West Container Terminal (WCT-1) at the Port of Colombo is progressing well with the dredging works being rapidly completed. The contract for the quay wall construction, a significant component of the overall construction works, was awarded in October 2022. Overall timelines for the project remain as originally envisaged.

The Leisure industry group recorded a strong performance driven by the Maldivian Resorts and Colombo Hotels segments.

The Supermarket business recorded an EBITDA growth of 26 per cent to Rs.1.99 billion due to an increase in same store sales driven by a combination of higher customer footfall and basket values due to high inflation. The overall profitability in the Retail industry group was impacted by a substantial decline in the EBITDA of the Office Automation business compared to the third quarter of the previous year.

Profitability in the Consumer Foods businesses were impacted by volume declines reflective of dampened consumer sentiments, and lower margins, although margin pressure is expected to ease off from the fourth quarter of 2022/23 onwards.

The Property industry group recorded a decline in profitability as the third quarter of the previous year included revenue and profit recognition from the handover of the residential apartments and commercial office floors at ‘Cinnamon Life’. The recognition of revenue of all units sold at ‘Cinnamon Life’ up to 31 March 2022 was recorded across 2021/22.

The Insurance business recorded a growth in the life insurance surplus and gross written premiums whilst Nations Trust Bank recorded an increase in net interest margins and a reduction in costs.

The Group’s carbon footprint per million rupees of revenue decreased by 25 per cent to 0.38 MT while the water withdrawal per million rupees of revenue decreased by 17 per cent to 7.56 cubic meters.

Initiatives under ‘ONE JKH’, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) brand of the John Keells Group, included a perception survey to better understand employee awareness and sentiment towards increasing career opportunities for persons with disabilities.

Cognizant of the multiple economic hardships faced by the people of the country, and in recognition of the Group’s role as a leading responsible corporate citizen, the Group continued its multipronged crisis response programme with a particular focus in the areas of food security, education and nutrition among vulnerable segments such as school children.

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CSE positively impacted by US ambassador’s comments on bail-out

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By Hiran H. Senewiratne

CSE share trading kicked off on a positive note yesterday following US ambassador Julie Chung’s positive comments on the IMF bailout to foreign media and the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland arriving in Sri Lanka last morning, stock market analysts said.

The market gained in mid-day trade yesterday, mainly pushed up by banking and financial sectors, brokers said. As a result, both indices moved upwards. The All- Share Price Index went up by 84.96 points and S and P SL20 rose by 45.29 points.

Turnover amounted to Rs 1.5 billion without any crossings. The reason for investor sentiment to move up was because it was clear that the US seems to be pushing creditors to go for debt restructuring to obtain the IMF bailout for Sri Lanka, analysts said.

In the retail market seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were; JKH Rs 239 million (1.7 million shares traded), Softlogic Life Insurance Rs 175 million (1.4 million shares traded), Lanka IOC Rs 164 million (805,000 shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 154 million (806,000 shares traded), Softlogic Capital Rs 125 million (7.8 million shares traded), Tokyo Cement (Non -Voting) Rs 46.5 million (1.5 million shares traded) and Lanka Tiles Rs 46.4 million (one million shares traded).

It said high net worth and institutional investor participation was noted in John Keells Holdings, Lanka IOC and Lanka Wall Tiles. Mixed interest was observed in Softlogic Life Insurance, Expolanka Holdings and Chevron Lubricants, while retail interest was noted in LOLC Finance, Softlogic Capital and Browns Investments.

The Capital Goods sector was the top contributor to the market turnover (due to JKH), while the sector index lost 1.06 per cent. The share price of JKH recorded a loss of 50 cents to settle at Rs. 139.50.

The Insurance sector was the second highest contributor to the market turnover (due to Softlogic Life Insurance) while the sector index increased by 1.31%. The share price of Softlogic Life Insurance increased by Rs. 2 to close at Rs. 120.50.

Lanka IOC, Softlogic Capital and LOLC Finance were also included among the top turnover contributors. The share price of Lanka IOC lost Rs. 2 to close at Rs. 206.25. The share price of Softlogic Capital moved up by 20 cents to close at Rs. 15.90. The share price of LOLC Finance closed flat at Rs. 6.90.

“We are seeing a lot of activity today, mostly retail interest led by the life insurance companies like Softlogic life and Softlogic Capital, a market analyst said. “Foreign buying was there in the last few days as well”. During the day 60.2 million share volumes changed hands in 14000 transactions.

It is said that Colombo City Hotel subdivided its shares by one share into 20 ordinary shares for its shareholders.

The stock market ended the first month of the New Year with a gain of over 4 per cent, largely influenced by strong momentum earlier on as investor sentiment of late has been bearish.

January saw the benchmark ASPI gain by 4.4 per cent and the active S&P SL20 Index by 5 per cent. Daily turnover averaged Rs. 1.86 billion, according sources said.

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E-commerce: An islandwide phenomenon and a youth-oriented futuristic industry of Sri Lanka – Report

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Daraz Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka Association for Software Services Companies (SLASSCOM) released the first in-depth study on the adoption and use of e-commerce in Sri Lanka during difficult economic times at a roundtable discussion held in Colombo on Monday 30th January 2023. The report titled “E-commerce: A Driver of Inclusive Growth in Sri Lanka?” was presented to and discussed with the State Minister of Technology, Hon. Kanaka Herath, in the presence of key report contributors.

This report is the result of a partnership between Daraz Sri Lanka and the Sri Lanka Association for Software Services Companies (SLASSCOM) and aims to bridge crucial data gaps in the e-commerce industry, while also pointing to essential policy needs.

Dr Ganeshan Wignaraja, a Professorial Fellow in Economics and Trade at Gateway House, Mumbai and a Senior Research Associate at ODI Global, London, designed and co-authored the report together with Ms Anishka De Zylva, Head of Public Policy and Corporate Affairs at Daraz Sri Lanka. The survey was conducted by NielsenIQ Sri Lanka, under the supervision of Ms. Therica Miyanadeniya, Country Director of NielsonIQ Sri Lanka.

Commenting on the report, Dr Ganeshan Wignaraja opined, “An expanding digital economy and the e-commerce sector are supportive of the economy’s shift from crisis to recovery in Sri Lanka’s 75th anniversary of independence. The first report on the sector aims to facilitate discussion of a market-friendly business environment by identifying micro-level dynamics of the e-commerce industry in Sri Lanka.”

The report is based on the meticulous collection of primary data through an islandwide survey of a sample population of more than 4,500 participants undertaken between March 2022 and July 2022. The survey collected information in areas that are relevant to making business strategies and public policies covering the:

(i) the use of e-commerce across provinces and districts;

(ii) the types of goods and services purchased;

(iii) purchasing behaviour during the pandemic;

(iv) user behaviour by characteristics;

(v) the types of devices and payment methods used for e-commerce purchases;

(vi) factors discouraging online purchasing;

(vii) the use of e-commerce for selling goods and services; and

(vii) the influence of government policy on e-commerce transactions from both a seller and consumer perspective.

Rakhil Fernando, Managing Director of Daraz Sri Lanka further added “E-commerce is still a relatively new industry in Sri Lanka. However, one of the main findings of this research is that e-commerce is already an islandwide phenomenon, and it is widely used for purchasing goods and services. Over 50% of the survey respondents in all provinces said they use e-commerce to purchase goods and services, and provinces close to and further away from the Western Province are not lagging in terms of e-commerce adoption. This is a strong indicator that e-commerce will play a catalytic role in advancing retail trade in Sri Lanka, despite the challenging landscape. The survey also provides many insights and ideas for the future growth of the industry, along with suggestions for a better business enabling environment which can lead to unlocking multiple opportunities if implemented within an apt policy framework.”

Ashique M. Ali, Chairperson of SLASSCOM, also explained that, “The accelerated growth of e-commerce has transformed the way businesses operate in the post-pandemic world. We have observed that in our region and beyond, countries that were quick to adopt e-commerce and digital payment methods have witnessed much higher, inclusive economic growth and this positive impact and trend can be beneficial for Sri Lanka, albeit the challenges of the economic crisis. This e-commerce research report provides a baseline for steering the expansion of the e-commerce sector amidst common challenges such as a lack of knowledge on e-commerce and low levels of trust in digital payment methods. We hope the guidance and ideas offered by this report will be appropriately employed by the relevant stakeholders including the government and businesses, to create a more enabling business environment in which all businesses, including MSMES, women-led businesses, and even home-based artisans can thrive and grow in.”

The report will be made available as a downloadable pdf file on the Daraz and SLASSCOM corporate websites to anyone interested in understanding the industry at a deeper level. For more information email corporateaffairs@daraz.lk.

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