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NDB posts solid performance in H1 2021 amidst the pandemic



National Development Bank PLC, Sri Lanka’s fourth largest listed bank continued to demonstrate its resilience to external shocks and ability to deliver consistent results, as reflected in financial statements released to the Colombo Stock Exchange for the six months ended 30 June 2021, the bank said in a news release last week.

The review period was marked by month long travel restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the third wave of the pandemic in Sri Lanka which affected business momentum. NDB’s Director and Group CEO Dimantha Seneviratne commented that notwithstanding these deepening challenges, the Bank stayed in top form in delivering uncompromised value to all our stakeholders, thanks to its agile strategies and committed team.

He said the banking sector has always played a crucial role in national economic development, and its importance is more pronounced in a situation like this. With the nation-wide vaccination program successfully rolling out there is expectancy of expedited return to economic normalcy. In such a backdrop, NDB has affirmed its focus in safeguarding the interest of three critical stakeholders, i.e. the customers, the employees and the society at large. This focus has enabled NDB to maintain a sound equilibrium in our performance, for the benefits of all our stakeholders together with a sense of achievement for the team.

Income and profitability

NDB recorded a total operating income of LKR 15.4 Bn which grew by 19% over six months ended June 2020 (YoY). Operating income was strengthened by net interest income (NII), net fee & commission income and consolidated other non-fund based income, all of which recorded a growth over the comparative period, the release explained.

NII, the majority contributor in operating income (67%), grew by 17% to LKR 10 Bn. Reflecting the reduced interest rate environment, both interest income and interest expenses declined YoY with the latter posting a larger decline at 18%. Deposit portfolio’s improving skewness towards CASA base, with over 50% of the fresh deposits growth for H1 2021 over H1 2020 coming from CASA deposits and a significantly improved CASA ratio of 26% (H1 2020: 21%) contributed to reduce interest expenses. CASA base also improved by 54% YoY (LKR 48 Bn). Resultant annualized net interest margin (NIM) for the period was 3.23% (H1 2020 – 3.25%). NIM continues to be under pressure with possible further relief to be granted to customers in loan repayments, due to the cascading effects of the pandemic.

Net fee and commission income grew by an impressive 48% to LKR 2.6 Bn supported by growth in the loan book (YoY 14%), trade business and digital banking transactions conducted through NDB NEOS platforms. All other non-fund based income, including net gains from trading and de-recognition of financial assets collectively grew by 6% to LKR 2.4 Bn., the release said.

Impairment charges for loans and other losses for H1 2021 was LKR 4.2 Bn, an increase of 31% YoY. Provision charges increased in line with the growth in the loan book and provisions made at both collective and individual levels in response to elevated risks caused by the third wave of the pandemic and other stresses. The regulatory gross non-performing loan [NPL] ratio for H1 2021 was 5.63% (2020: 5.35%) reflecting the wider industry NPL behavior. The net NPL ratio for the quarter was 3.37% (2020: 3.23%).

Costs continued to be well managed, benefiting from the Bank’s organization-wide Operational Efficiency and Effectiveness improvement programme (OEE) and strong digital drive. Total operating expenses for H1 2021 was LKR 5.1 Bn, with the YoY increase managed at 10%, amidst business volume growth and a host of other customer-centric initiatives. Gradual increase in deployment of Robotic Process Automations and workflow solutions in internal processes are delivering their investment dividends, with the increase in controllable costs managed at reasonable levels. NDB NEOS digitized platforms undergo continuous upgrades, propelling the uptake of these digital channels over physical banking for our customers. The resultant cost to income ratio for the period was 33%, remaining at the low 30% range.

Operating profit before all taxes for the period was LKR 6.1 Bn, up by 21% YoY. Total taxes for the period was LKR 2.2 Bn, comprising VAT on financial services – which recorded an increase of 16% due to increase in business volumes, and income tax – which reduced by 4% amidst an increase in profits due to the income tax rate reducing to 24% (effective from the prior year) from 28% in the prior year. The effective tax rate for H1 2021 was 36%.

Accordingly, post-tax profitability enhanced to LKR 3.9 Bn, up by 32% whilst profit attributable to shareholders increased to LKR 4.1 Bn, up by a notable 73%. NDB Group’s capital market cluster continued to make valid contribution to the overall Group profitability, benefited by greater opportunities available in the Sri Lankan capital markets.

Balance Sheet Performance

Total assets for H1 2021 was LKR 664 Bn, up by 6% over 2020. On YoY terms this was a growth of 18%. Loan book growth was broad-based, to LKR 487 Bn, a YTD growth of 10% and YoY growth of 14% (quantum of growth – LKR 43.5 Bn and LKR 58.2 Bn respectively), with lending increasing to all segments.

On aspects of funding, the Bank’s deposits base crossed the LKR 500 Bn mark for the first time with deposits closing in at LKR 515 Bn. This was a YTD growth of 5% and YoY growth of 21%, which translated to quantum of LKR 25.0 Bn and LKR 87.7 Bn respectively. CASA deposits grew by 11% YTD (LKR 13 Bn) to LKR 136 Bn.

The period under review booked a total capital infusion of LKR 9.46 Bn, comprising of LKR 8 Bn raised through the Rights Issue and LKR 1.46 Bn, raised through the Private Placement with Norfund – the Norwegian Investment Fund for developing countries, strengthening Tier I equity capital of the Bank. NDB also secured USD 75 Mn from the Development Finance Corporation of the USA as a long term funding line towards lending to SMEs and infrastructure development of the country.

Key performance ratios

Return on equity of the Bank for H1 2021 increased to 13.81% (2020: 13.13%) whilst the same at the Group level was 13.91% (2020: 11.20%). Pre-tax ROA of the Bank was 1.68% (2020: 1.59%) and of the Group was 1.79% (2020: 1.58%). Earnings per share of the Bank was LKR 28.89 (2020: LKR 23.77), whilst the same for the Group was LKR 30.96 (2020: LKR 21.99).

The net asset value per share of the Bank and the Group were LKR 161.48 and LKR 170.94. On capital adequacy, Tier I capital adequacy ratio and Total capital adequacy ratio of the Bank were 10.43% and 14.73% respectively. The same ratios for the Group were 10.83% and 15.03%. Liquidity coverage ratio – Rupee, Liquidity coverage ratio – All currency and Net Stable Funding Ratio were 204.01%, 184.31% and 116.81% respectively. All these ratios were well above the regulator stipulated minimum requirement levels, with capital adequacy ratios having enhanced post Tier I capital infusion as explained above – reflecting the strength, stability and sufficient liquidity of the Bank.

Support extended to COVID-19 affected customers and other aspects of performance

The Bank’s support to its pandemic hit customers to emerge strong continues, with various moratoria and concessions, together with strong advisory support from our relationship managers, including the “NDB Jayagamu Sri Lanka” proposition. NDB continued its digital drive unabated by the pandemic. Enabling CRIB report and CRIB score downloads in the NEOS mobile app and commencing the development of video -Know-Your-Customer (vKYC) which will take virtual banking to a new level using AI, are two of the “first in the industry” launches by NDB. “NDB Cares”, NDB’s structured response in support of employees and the society at large under the theme “Together with Humanity…Stronger with Positivity” continued its mission, which included donations to the healthcare sector and communities in need, amongst other initiatives.


Way forward

With the completion of Tier I capital infusion netting LKR 9.5 Bn, and further funds secured through credit lines, NDB is poised for accelerated growth as market opportunities warrant. This growth will be in alignment with the Bank’s own strategic aspirations as well as the country’s broader needs to propel economic prosperity, which include the SME sector, thereby fortifying NDB’s role as a key contributor in the nation’s development journey.

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Significance of repatriation and conversion of export proceeds for external sector stability and overall financial system stability



Sri Lanka’s merchandise export sector has shown a notable improvement in 2021 compared to the pandemic-affected 2020. As per the latest Customs data, export earnings have averaged US dollars 985 million during the eight months ending August 2021 compared to a monthly average of US dollars 837 million in 2020, while the average earnings have amounted to US dollars 1,064 million during June-August 2021. This is an appreciable development as the merchandise export sector (comprising diverse products) is the largest foreign exchange earner in most countries, including Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka has had a trade deficit each year since 1977, and the gap between merchandise imports and exports is typically financed by other inflows to the external current account (such as tourism and other services inflows as well as workers’ remittances), and financial inflows (such as investments and borrowing).

In this background, some recent developments in the foreign exchange market have raised several concerns, particularly as some of these typical avenues of foreign exchange inflows have been affected due to pandemic-related pressures, as explained below:

a) Compared to the monthly average exports as reported by Customs (goods flow) of US dollars 985 million during the eight months ending August 2021, the monthly average repatriation of export proceeds during July/August 2021 has been US dollars 640 million as reported by banks (financial flow). Accordingly, there has been a significant gap of US dollars 345 million between these two figures. This observation therefore, raises the serious question as to whether exporters comply with the regulation on 100 per cent repatriation of export proceeds.

b) It also appears that due to an undue speculation on exchange rate movements, there has been a reluctance to convert export earnings during the period from January 2020 to July 2021, thereby limiting inflows to the domestic foreign exchange market, which situation has then resulted in a buildup of foreign currency deposit balances with the banking sector by a significant US dollars 1.9 billion. In addition, with low rupee interest rates, some exporters have found it more lucrative to borrow and import to meet their input requirements, leading to further tension in the domestic market.

c) As per the data available, it would also be noted that if there had been a 100 per cent repatriation and 100 per cent conversion of export proceeds, the monthly export foreign exchange flow into the domestic market would have been US dollars 985 million, and with the average expenditure on imports of US dollars 1,670 million, that would have resulted in a monthly average gap of US dollars 685 million. This could have been easily financed using other foreign exchange inflows into the country.

d) Based on the above past statistics in general, and the experience during July/August 2021 in particular, the monthly average gap between the conversions of export proceeds with an incomplete repatriation and expenditure on imports has been quite alarming.

It would also be fair to state that there is a necessity for a country to ensure that the foreign exchange generated through export activities are duly repatriated into the country and converted into its currency. In fact, many emerging market economies have repatriation and conversion requirements imposed on merchandise and services exports. Country experiences vary, and over time, with the buildup of a country’s foreign exchange reserves through such non-debt inflows, countries have also gradually relaxed these requirements. Regional economies such as Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, and Thailand have export proceeds repatriation requirements currently in place varying from 3 months to 2 years of the export. Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Thailand have repatriation requirements on both goods and services export proceeds, while in Nepal, Malaysia and Indonesia, the repatriation requirement is only applicable on goods exports. Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Thailand have rules on conversion to respective local currencies in different percentages based on nature and the amount of repatriated export proceeds and their utilisation. Such repatriation and conversion requirements ensure the fulfillment of the demand for foreign currency, including intermediate and investment goods imports directly required by the export sector, as well as essential fuel and medical requirements of the country, which are indirect inputs to all sectors including the export sector.

Therefore, it would be reasonable for the Government (which supports the export sector through lower taxes and numerous other incentives) and the Central Bank (which is expected to deliver price and economic stability as well as financial system stability) to take steps to ensure the complete repatriation of export proceeds within a reasonable period and the conversion of inflows of export proceeds into the local currency, including the proceeds already accumulated in exporters’ accounts, so that the true purpose of exports is realised.

As would be well appreciated, an export would realise its objective only when it finally culminates in the flow of foreign exchange that is generated by the export into the country’s financial system in its local currency. That objective would obviously not be fulfilled if the final conversion of export proceeds into local currency does not take place. Accordingly, steps must be taken to strengthen the systems to ensure monitoring and to implement measures that lead to this objective. It is only then that the gap between the foreign exchange liquidity provided through exports and the foreign exchange liquidity demand for imports would reduce to the level as published in the Central Bank’s own reports.

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LOLC and Expolanka drive bourse along bullish path



By Hiran H.Senewiratne

CSE trading activities initially yesterday were extremely bullish and were driven by two leading entities/counters, LOLC Group and Expolanka. The reason for the LOLC Group to perform well in the stock market was because LOLC (Ceylon) Ltd. that was established in 2018, announced a debenture issue for September 29 to raise Rs. 1 billion, stock market analysts said.

LOLC (Ceylon) Ltd. is planning to purchase all three finance companies under the LOLC Group to make them function as one entity in the future. Initially they will transfer 55 percent of LOLC Development Finance (NIFL) from LOLC Group. Part of the money raised from the debenture issue and the balance two companies, namely LOLC Finance Plc and Commercial Leasing Plc, will join the company in the future, market analysts added.

Meanwhile, E M L Consultants Limited commenced trading on the Empower Board of the CSE yesterday. The company listed 90,900,000 Ordinary Voting Shares and has been classified under the Industry Group “2020 – Commercial & Professional Services”. With the commencement of the very first day of trading its share price appreciated by 690 percent. Its shares started trading at Rs 2 and at the end of the day they shot up to Rs. 15.80.

Amid those developments both indices moved upwards. The All Share Price Index went up by 364 points and S and P SL20 rose by 79.6 points. Turnover stood at Rs 6.7 billion with four crossings. Those crossings were reported in JKH, which crossed 5.7 million shares to the tune of Rs 771 million and its shares were traded at Rs 136, Sampath Bank 3.6 million shares crossed for Rs 182 million, its shares traded at Rs 49.50, LMF 250,000 shares crossed for Rs 45 million with its shares fetching Rs. 180 and Nestle 16000 shares crossed for Rs 20.1 million, its shares fetching Rs. 1250.

In the retail market, five companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were; Expolanka Rs. 2.5 billion (13.5 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 653 million (67.6 million shares traded), LOLC Finance Rs 411 million (43.7 million shares traded), LOLC Holdings

Rs 402.9 million (730,000 shares traded) and Commercial Leasing Rs 204.4 million (7.5 million shares traded). During the day 202.7 million share volumes changed hands in 38000 transactions.

Asiri Hospitals have topped the league in the first-ever ranking of listed entities in Sri Lanka in an exercise for the year ended 31 March 2021, done by K Seeds Investments. All six listed hospital companies were assessed on Net Profit Margin, EBIT Margin, Return on Equity, Return on Assets Debt to Equity Ratio, Current Ratio, Revenue Growth and Net Profit Growth.

On that basis, Asiri Surgical Hospital has come on top, followed by Asiri Hospital Holdings, Ceylon Hospitals (Durdans), Nawaloka Hospitals, Lanka Hospitals, and Singhe Hospitals.

The current USD to LKR exchange rate is Rs. 200.04 per US dollar.

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‘Government going to the financial rescue of MSMEs’



By Hiran H .Senewiratne

The Cabinet took the initiative to provide financial assistance and support to micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) industrialists who are struggling to do business due to adverse impacts of the COVID pandemic, the Minister of Industry and Commerce Wimal Weerawansa said.

“For that matter I have presented a Cabinet proposal titled ‘Difficulties Faced by Small and Medium Enterprises’. The proposal made to the Cabinet meeting held two weeks ago was approved with few amendments. We are ready to publish all the contents in another week, Weerawansa said during a webinar held last Saturday evening.

The event was organized by the Sri Lanka Chamber of Small and Medium Industries (SLCSMI) and was powered by the Institute of Money and Entrepreneurship Development (IMED). The event was titled ‘Empowering MSMEs to embrace the new normal’.

Weerawansa said this initiative will provide financial relief to SME industrialists who are faced with various difficulties amid the pandemic.

“These entrepreneurs need a little financial support to continue with their business activities that were impacted by the pandemic, he said, adding that all countries are faced with economic difficulties.

Weerawansa added: “The entire world is faced with a most unprecedented pandemic and all economies are faced with different challenges. Economic activities have been impacted severely and all industries are making every effort to stay afloat in these uncertain times.

“A special Guarantee Fund is now established under the Finance Ministry to support inventors.

“The Guarantee Fund is available for industrialists who can invent market-winning products, but do not have the capital to do so mainly because they are unable to obtain bank loans.

“The fund was established with the support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

“The Guarantee Fund was a 2020 budget proposal, which was implemented by Prime Minister and former Finance Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

“The ‘Empowering of MSMEs to embrace the new normal’ initiative by the SLCSMI which helps to build the mindset of entrepreneurs and industrialists is commendable.

“If the mindset breaks down, entrepreneurs will not be able to overcome the challenges despite their financial capabilities. That encouragement is essential at this moment – to revitalize a broken-minded entrepreneur, an industrialist, by pointing out their weaknesses and assuring them with a ‘you can’ mindset to overcome the challenges. The Chamber has stepped in to fill a key void in the industry.”

President, SLCSMI Prof Rohan De Silva said that the SME sector contributed more than 55 percent to 65 percent to the GDP. Therefore, to support this sector is the need of the hour, while the country’s economy is in a serious state.

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