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Nations Trust Bank continues resilient performance

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Despite the challenging business environment, the Bank continued its planned “K shaped” recovery strategy by increasing the loan portfolio by LKR 20 billion recording an increase of 10% during the quarter. Nations Trust Bank continued to provide working capital loans under the “Saubhagya” scheme introduced by the government to assist customers across all segments.

Understanding the importance of assisting the adversely impacted businesses for their revival and to rebuild of businesses and livelihoods, the bank contributed over LKR 19 billion new credit facilities under its own revival fund “Nations Diriya” scheme which is dedicated to extending financial support to key industries, enabling such businesses to recommence and rebuild their business operations.

Furthermore, the bank also offered special payment relief schemes and repayment plans for the existing borrowers in addition to the Central Bank mandated moratorium schemes with low interest rates and restructured repayment plans for some of the identified industries and businesses segments.

Nations Trust Bank raised $25 million from IFC during the quarter to support Sri Lankan SME businesses with improved access to critical working capital to continue operations and preserve lives and livelihoods. Over the years, IFC-NTB partnership has helped create a promising future for many small businesses across Sri Lanka, opening new markets and opportunities and creating new vistas.

Essential banking services continued to be provided despite some parts of the country being isolated to mitigate a third wave of COVID-19 post Sinhala and Tamil New Year. During these unprecedented times the investments made on digital platforms have assisted all key stakeholders to stay connected and conduct business while ensuring their safety in carrying out day to day banking activity by having access to the bank at their fingertips. In-person meetings were converted to organization-wide virtual meetings adhering to all safety protocols.

PCR and Antigen tests for identified staff were undertaken by the bank at regular intervals ensuring the safety of staff and customers. Special staff transportation at concessionary rates were arranged during the pandemic for staff to conveniently commute to work as an additional safety measure. The bank ensured all safety protocols are implemented in close consultation with the public health authorities, across the network.

Despite subdued economic conditions due to the pandemic, the group recorded a Profit Before Tax growth of 39% for the 3 months ended 31st March 2021 compared to previous year.

Net Interest Income continued to decline primarily due to the reduction in the market interest rates while interest rate ceilings introduced by the regulator impacted some business portfolios. Yields on loans reduced by 370bps in line with the fall in AWPLR by 350 bps supporting the loan growth and the economic recovery efforts. A reduction in yields in the FIS portfolio, after the profits taken on the high yielding securities, further aggravated the net interest income decline. However, the improvement of CASA ratio to 35% as at end March 2021 from 29% as at end March 2020 helped partially offset the decline in interest margins during the period.

Gains on trading FX increased as a result of FX funding swaps with a higher depreciation of the rupee during the current period in contrast to the depreciation during the same period last year. The bank also benefited with trading profits on its’ fixed income securities portfolio with the fall in market rates.

Suspension or refund of certain charges by the bank, considering the current difficulties faced by customers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, negatively impacted the bank’s fee-based income. Cards income declined on account of a decrease in card spend due to changes in customer behavior patterns owing to the restrictions in mobility and overseas travel. A drop in discretionary spend was visible due to these phenomena. However, a positive trend could be seen in Trade Finance related income with the increase in some of the Trade Finance related activities. (NTB)



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Courtyard by Marriott to debut in Sri Lanka

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Marriott International is set to introduce the Courtyard by Marriott brand to Sri Lanka, this year. The hospitality giant has signed an agreement with Colombo City Centre Partners (Private) Limited, part of the Abans Group, for this 164-key hotel, expected to open in late 2021, – according to Business Traveller India.

Located in the heart of Colombo city adjacent to the Beira Lake, Courtyard by Marriott Colombo will feature 164 modern guest rooms and suites. The rooms will be equipped with functional work area, smart amenities, and high-speed internet access, making it an ideal stay option for business and leisure travellers, the Indian magazine stated.

There will be two dining venues – an all-day dining restaurant serving a combination of western dishes, Asian favourites and a host of local delicacies as well as an adjoining Lobby Lounge decked with a full-service bar and a quick-bites menu.

Other amenities include a 24-hour fitness centre, an outdoor swimming pool and three meeting rooms.

Rajeev Menon, president, Asia Pacific (excluding China), Marriott International said:

“We are delighted to strengthen our Marriott Bonvoy portfolio of hotels in Sri Lanka with today’s signing. The signing underscores our long-term commitment to Sri Lanka as a strategically important market, offering the potential to grow our brands and provide customers with more choices.”

Kiran Andicot, regional vice president – Development, South Asia, Marriott International commented, “We are very pleased to collaborate with Abans Group, who share our vision to offer smart, intuitive service and high-quality accommodation in Sri Lanka.”

Further elaborating on the collaboration, Aban Pestonjee, chairperson of Abans Group said:

“We are happy to have forged this strategic business alliance with Marriott International and are keen to see our relationship grow from strength to strength. We eagerly look forward to the opening of the first Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Sri Lanka. We are excited to have Marriott International with us at Colombo City Centre.”

 

 

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Virtusa appoints Santosh Thomas as CEO

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Virtusa Corporation, a global provider of digital strategy, digital engineering and IT services and solutions that help clients change and disrupt markets through innovation engineering, yesterday announced the appointment of Santosh Thomas as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Virtusa’s Board of Directors appointed Santosh as successor to the company’s founder, Kris Canekeratne, who announced his transition from the business in May 2021. Santosh joins Virtusa during a time of significant growth and follows the recent appointment of Sander van‘t Noordende to the position of Chairman of the Board of Directors.

Santosh brings more than 20 years of leadership and industry experience to Virtusa. Most recently Santosh served as President of Global Growth Markets at Cognizant where he managed a business with revenues over $4 billion and built multiple billion-dollar businesses in Europe and Asia Pacific in Banking, CommTech and Products & Resources.  In his new role, Santosh will help Virtusa drive growth in key markets and continue to be recognized as an employer of choice.

“On behalf of the entire company and the Board of Directors, I would like to thank Kris for his more than two decades of leadership,” said Sander van‘t Noordende. “I would also like to welcome Santosh who brings a stellar track record of client service, leadership, and proven success. Santosh has the vision and experience to take Virtusa’s deep heritage in digital engineering to new levels of growth.”

 “I am deeply honored to join Virtusa at this exciting time for our employees, clients and partners,” said Santosh Thomas. “I have admired Kris and Virtusa for fostering a culture of innovation and distinguishing itself as a global leader in helping customers tackle their unique digital transformation challenges. Virtusa has a great brand reputation, an impressive roster of strategic partners, and is well positioned for sustained growth.”

“When I founded Virtusa 25 years ago I had a vision to build a global powerhouse in digital engineering services. And we did just that,” said Kris Canekeratne. “I leave with the confidence that the company and its leadership team have never been stronger and its opportunities have never been greater. I welcome Santosh Thomas to the CEO role and wish him the best in his efforts to lead Virtusa through its next phase of growth.”

Also announced yesterday, Denise Warren has joined Virtusa’s Board of Directors and has been appointed Chairperson of its Audit Committee. Ms. Warren recently retired from her position as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of WakeMed Health & Hospitals, and serves on the boards of Brookdale Senior Living, Computer Programs & Systems Inc., and Rockroom Insurance Group. 

 

 

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No double standards please, on govt’s vehicle import ban: CMTA

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Meanwhile, on June 9, The Island published its front page lead story ‘Covid time bonanza: Luxury SUVs for MPs coming after all- LCs opened before Cabinet rescinded its own decision’.

The Ceylon Motor Traders Association (CMTA) has expressed its concerns on the decision the government has taken to import 400 vehicles – including 227 luxury SUVs – to a value of Rs. 3.7 billion through the Bank of Ceylon. The Government reversed its earlier decision to cancel the order, citing the fact that the Letters of Credit (LCs) had been already opened and “as the opening of Letters of Credit meant guaranteed payment, Sri Lanka faced the prospect of being blacklisted if a unilateral decision was taken” as per Minister Keheliya Rambukwella’s explanation to the press.

The CMTA notified the government of the same issues and repercussions on international trade as a result of unilaterally dishonouring 216 LCs of its members that had been opened prior to the import ban in March 2020. Totalling Rs. 5.2 billion, these include a considerable number of vehicles ordered by permit holders such as doctors and government officials who are at the forefront fighting the pandemic, some of whom had already sold their existing vehicle, anticipating their new vehicle to arrive shortly. Is it fair to keep these permit holders on hold indefinitely while new luxury SUVs are imported for MPs during the import ban?

Due to these LCs being dishonoured, a total of more than 14,000 vehicles comprising 10,780 Motorcycles, 2640 trishaws and 537 Cars specifically ordered for Sri Lankan market conditions were prohibited from being imported.

The vehicle import ban imposed last year has taken a toll on vehicle buyers by constricting the market at a time when the need for personal transportation is more acute. To make matters worse, the resulting imbalance of demand vs. supply has caused prices of used vehicles skyrocket within a short time span, and has led to unscrupulous activities at the expense of the consumer, such as odometer tampering.

Speaking on behalf of the CMTA, Chairman Yasendra Amerasinghe said, “Considering the rampant increase of COVID-19 cases at this time, with various potent variants of the virus spreading throughout the island, personal mobility represents the safest option for citizens who have no choice but to travel. The CMTA very much agrees with Minister Rambukwella’s statement that cancellation of confirmed LCs will affect the credibility of our banks and country. We strongly urge the government to apply the same standard to LCs for vehicles for government servants including doctors, and the general public as it has applied for luxury SUVs for MPs. We hope that there would be no double standard.”

Furthermore, the CMTA mentioned that it had been reminding the government of a proposal for Quota that It had submitted in March, at the request of the President’s Secretariat, to which no response had been given. This proposal was based on a minimum volume of vehicle imports for the industry to survive until the import ban is lifted.

Concerns were also raised as to how this purchase had been carried out without an open tender, with queries as to whether it complies with government procurement guidelines.

Founded in 1920, the Ceylon Motor Traders Association (CMTA) is affiliated to the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and is widely accepted as the voice of the Sri Lankan Automotive Industry.

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