The Pathfinder Foundation (PF) and Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF), a leading think tank in India, conducted a webinar with virtual participation of several experts from both countries on the themes ‘Regional and Geopolitical Environment’ and ‘Indo-Lanka Trade & Economic Relations’.
The two delegations were headed by Bernard Goonetilleke, Chairman, Pathfinder Foundation and Dr. Arvind Gupta, Director-Vivekananda International Foundation. Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy, Former Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and Sanjay Chadha, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Commerce and Industry of India addressed the subject of Indo-Lanka trade and economic relations, whilst Admiral (Prof.) Jayanath Colombage, Secretary-Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Anil Wadhwa, former Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs of India provided their personal perspectives on regional geopolitics.
During the session on trade and economic relations, given the dynamics of geopolitics in the Indian Ocean Region, the need for a rules-based framework following the principle of non-reciprocity in the interest of a smaller economies within an asymmetric system was brought forth. Increasing people-to-people contacts taking advantage of the island’s close proximity to South India and the number of favourable factors existing to build a good foundation for trade between the two countries was stressed on. The Indo Lanka Free Trade Agreement of 2000 was also discussed with its unrealized potential as well as impediments. Export, investment, training and technology transfer, creation of special economic zones, improvement in connectivity and logistics and electrical grid connectivity were pointed out as areas to focus on for enhancing economic relations between the two nations. It was noted that Indian investment in the island has increased considerably during the past few years, whilst Sri Lankan businesses too have begun operations in India. The Economic and Technology Co-operation Agreement (ETCA) that seeks to add to the existing free trade agreement between the two nations was noted as a positive venture for both parties after necessary refinement. The discussion that followed brought out concerns related to public mistrust of the free trade agreements in general and how to overcome this issue by increasing transparency. The fisheries issue in the Palk Strait area that adversely affect bilateral relations and economic interests of the island was considered as an issue that need to be resolved through determined action and negotiation.
The session on the regional geopolitical environment focused on how the Covid-19 pandemic has created a new world order where Sri Lanka, although a smaller nation, has been successful is meeting challenges. In an environment where the role of international organizations such as the WHO are questioned, two new specific areas have emerged – food security and medical security. In this respect, attention was drawn to the fact that India gifted large quantities of medical supplies, which has led to a novel phenomenon of ‘health diplomacy’. The Sri Lankan public’s tendency to mistrust its larger neighbour was considered as the principal obstacle to improving relations between the neighbouring countries.
The mistrust coupled with prevailing ignorance of each other has prevented better understanding between the populations of the two countries. The meeting also focused its attention on the importance of the Indian Ocean for global economic wellbeing and discussed aspects relating to militarization of the Indian Ocean.
Emirates invests over US$ 2 Bn to take its on-board customer experience to new heights
Dubai, UAE, 10 August 2022: Priding itself on a brand promise of ‘Fly Better’, Emirates is investing over US$ 2 billion to enhance its inflight customer experience, including a massive programme to retrofit over 120 aircraft with the latest interiors, plus an array of other service improvements across all cabins starting in 2022.
Sir Tim Clark, President Emirates Airline said: “While others respond to industry pressures with cost cuts, Emirates is flying against the grain and investing to deliver ever better experiences to our customers. Through the pandemic we’ve continued to launch new services and initiatives to ensure our customers travel with the assurance and ease, including digital initiatives to improve customer experiences on the ground. Now we’re rolling out a series of intensive programmes to take Emirates’ signature inflight experiences to the next level.”
Some of Emirates’ latest initiatives include: elevated meal choices, a brand new vegan menu, a ‘cinema in the sky’ experience, cabin interior upgrades, sustainable choices and a generous approach to the little touches that make travel memorable.
Starting from August, Emirates’ passengers can look forward to:
New Inspirations, New Menus: An award-winning team of chefs, a world-class catering team and a wide variety of suppliers have been assembled to design and deliver the best fine dining experience in the sky. New menus will be served on select Emirates routes in First Class, featuring dishes such as pan-fried salmon trout with moqueca sauce and creole rice, roasted duck breast with orange thyme jus, steamed broccolini and fondant potatoes. New menus will also be introduced to Business and Economy on the 1st of September.
Purposefully Vegan Choices: Emirates’ new vegan menu is carefully curated to cater to the growing numbers of customers pursuing this thoughtful lifestyle. Vegans, or anyone interested in a delicious and healthy plant-based meal, will enjoy handcrafted gourmet dishes such as pan-roasted king oyster mushrooms, flavoursome jackfruit biryani and sliced kohlrabi garnished with burnt orange. Desserts are a decadent affair with choices of chocolate truffle cake with hazelnut, pistachio and gold leaf, or green grape tart adorned with candied rose petals, vanilla custard, and berry compote glistening with yuzu pearls. Vegan dishes are available to pre-order in all cabin classes.
The Champagne and Caviar Experience: Emirates’ First Class experience, always a benchmark for service excellence, has been upped a notch in 2022. Customers can now savour unlimited portions of Persian caviar as part of the ‘dine on demand’ service, with an exquisite pairing of the world-renowned Dom Perignon vintage champagne. Emirates is the only airline with an exclusive agreement to offer the luxury brand on-board.
Cinema in the Sky: First Class customers can create a memorable movie moment on-board by ordering cinema snacks as they enjoy the 5,000 channels on Emirates’ ice inflight entertainment system. The cinema snack menu includes moreish classics such as lobster rolls, juicy sliders, edamame, and salted popcorn, and can be ordered on demand. All passengers can also curate their own ice experience before their flight, simply by browsing and pre-selecting movies or TV shows on the Emirates app, which can then be synced to ice the moment they board, maximising the seamless travel experience.
Farm to Fork – Sustainable Supply Chain: Emirates’ customers departing on flights from Dubai can begin crunching on fresh greens harvested from Bustanica, the world’s largest vertical farm and newly-opened US$40 million joint venture investment through Emirates Flight Catering. Emirates is continuing to invest in sustainable operations and supply chains, seeking local food suppliers and farms wherever possible to serve the freshest produce on board.
JAT Holdings Posts Highest-Ever Revenue in Q1 2023
In the face of unprecedented challenges
- Revenue growth by 39% and gross profit growth by 37%
- Highest ever PAT for the 1st quarter
- Secures over eight months of raw material as inventory for uninter rupted production
- Commenced manufacturing operations in Bangladesh under fully-owned subsidiary, Asia Coatings (Pvt) Ltd
- Financial relief schemes provided to safeguard employees
Guided by its highly-experienced and skilled corporate management team, JAT Holdings PLC has achieved its highest-ever first-quarter revenue in FY 2022/23. The Group has also performed exceptionally well, across a range of other financial performance indicators, defying industry trends, amidst a highly challenging economic environment, a company news release said last week.
Financial Performance Overview
Total Revenue for Q1 grew by a very handsome 39% to LKR 1.935 billion, against LKR 1.396 billion in the corresponding quarter in the prior year, while Gross Profit in absolute terms rose by 37% to LKR 525.6 million, against LKR 382.6 million in Q1 of FY 2021/22.
Gross Profit Margins were maintained unchanged at 27%, despite mounting domestic and external challenges such as Sri Lanka’s multiple crises of economy, energy and foreign exchange, compounded by a global scarcity of raw materials, the company said.
Meanwhile, operating profit grew by 50% during the period under review to LKR 280.2 million, up from LKR 186.75 million in the corresponding period. However, Operating Profit Margin growth was subdued, but still recorded an expansion to 14%, up from 13%, it added.
“This was as a result of various economic relief packages and facilities provided to employees making it the highest ever increase in salaries within the company, coupled with rising inflation costs and exchange rate volatility,” the release said.
“Profit Before Tax (PBT) grew by 18%, demonstrating a sustained momentum of recovery, to LKR 198.8 million, compared with 168.9 million earlier, although Margins contracted slightly, from 12% in the corresponding period, to 10% during the period under review, as a result of the worsening economic environment.”
Discussing the strategic positioning of the Group and its Q1 performance, CEO, Nishal Ferdinando said, “Through our skillful and agile maneuvering, and by leveraging the expertise and experience of our management team, we have continued to deliver exceptional excellence to all our stakeholders, including our customers, amidst the worst economic crisis that Sri Lanka, or we as an organization, have ever faced.
“Through foresight and experience, we anticipated the present crises, based on economic indicators and on-ground information. Thus, we immediately rallied our people and our supply chain partners to secure adequate raw material stocks for at least eight months, which we were able to achieve thanks to our strong financial position, which was further consolidated as a result of our IPO.
In fact, the cash infusion from our IPO, has ensured low gearing, thus a reduction in financing costs, helping us to remain relatively unburdened amid a tightening monetary environment.”
Just over a year ago, in July 2021, JAT Holdings launched its IPO, which saw the Company successfully raise LKR 2.2 billion, in an oversubscribed issue, through the sale of 82.9 million ordinary shares at a price of LKR 27.00 per share. These funds have since been used for setting up an R&D centre, commissioning a manufacturing facility in Bangladesh and channeled towards market development initiatives for the Group’s new flagship brand, WHITE by JAT, the release said.
“We also have gone above and beyond, as an employer of choice, to ensure that our people are provided with adequate cushioning during the crisis,” added Mr. Ferdinando, “We have provided financial relief schemes, along with relief in other forms such as flexible work, access to essential items, moral and emotional support, and an overall sense of security in employment. This has helped us to work better as a team and continue to deliver what is expected of us, by customers and all other stakeholders.”
“Group Export Revenues dipped slightly during Q1, by 12%, as a result of reorganization due to the commencement of operations at the Group’s manufacturing facility in Bangladesh, owned and operated through its fully-owned subsidiary, Asia Coatings (Pvt) Ltd., the release said.
“However, export revenues are forecast to improve drastically as operations at the new facility get up to speed. Additionally, the Group has placed a strategic focus on developing its export operations, in order to further consolidate its financial and operating position over the rest of the year.
“Revenues from the Group’s Sri Lankan operations expanded by a significant 59% to LKR 1.576 billion in Q1 of FY 2022/23, up from LKR 989.3 million in the corresponding period. This was driven by increased sales, coupled with the effects of input price inflation.”
Progress on IPO Objectives
One year since the Issue, JAT Holdings PLC has fulfilled its promises to investors with regard to its IPO Objectives, the release said.Commenting on the progress, Founder and Managing Director of JAT Holdings PLC, Aelian Gunawardene said, “We are pleased to communicate to investors that we have made excellent progress with regard to our IPO Objectives. Construction on our Bangladesh manufacturing facility has been completed, and the facility commissioned, ahead of schedule.
“We look forward to reaping the benefits of enhanced production capacity and capability at our new facility in the coming months. Work has also already begun on our R&D centre, and we expect it to be completed within the next two months, again ahead of schedule and much lower than was initially budgeted. We have also used funds from the IPO to add value and build our flagship WHITE by JAT brand, and this has paid off handsomely.”
Kitchen & Bedroom Group CEO conferred with Doctorate in Interior Designing
Dr. Mohammed Rushmi Sacquaff was conferred with Doctorate in Interior Designing by the American National Business University, Delaware recently.The University awarded Dr. Sacquaff a Honoris Causa Doctorate based on his past experiences and knowledge through the route of Accreditation of Prior Learning.
Dr. Sacquaff is the CEO of Kitchen & Bedroom, a name synonymous in the interior designing and furniture sector in the country. Last year, Dr. Sacquaff was named ‘Best CEO of the Year’ under the Platinum- Medium Category at BIO Awards, was recently conferred as Master Project Manager and designated as Fellow of the American Academy of Project Management. Dr. Sacquaff was also named an Ambassador for Peace by the Centre for Peace Studies (CPS).
Dr. Sacquaff was instrumental in the success and growth of Kitchen & Bedroom, steering it to be one of the most sought-after interior planning and designing outfits that brings out the perfect blend of luxury, comfort and functionality complementing today’s living spaces.
In his capacity as the Group CEO, Dr. Sacquaff continues to mentor and lead a diverse team of highly qualified and talented interior designers, inspiring them with refined artistry and craftsmanship and reinstating the values and customer-centric approach to every project, together with his wife Fathima Zuhara who is also a Director of Kitchen & Bedroom.
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