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Robinsons Singapore throws in the towel after 162 years

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LYNETTE TAN

ROBINSONS Singapore, one of the oldest retailers in the Republic with more than a century in business, will close down for good following losses in recent years. But its last two stores at The Heeren and Raffles City Shopping Centre may remain open for a while more for final sales.

The Business Times (BT) on Thursday found that the department store operator had been put under a creditors’ voluntary winding-up.

Robinson & Co (Singapore) confirmed it in a statement on Friday. Its senior general manager, Danny Lim, said: “We regret this outcome today. Despite recent challenges in the industry, the Robinsons team continued to pursue the success of the brand. However, the changing consumer landscape makes it difficult for us to succeed over the long term and the Covid-19 pandemic has further exacerbated our challenges.”

He added that it has been “an honour” for Robinsons to serve the Singapore market and that he was “grateful for the dedication of (the) team, and for the support shown by (its) customers over the years”

Robinsons employees have been informed by management and the provisional liquidators of this news. The company said that employees will be paid in line with the next payment cycle, “well in advance of the usual liquidation process timing which would usually take months”.

The exit puts an end to at least six years of losses that Robinsons has chalked up against declining revenues.

Financial records show that the company made a loss after tax from continuing operations of S$26.5 million in 2014. It sank further into the red up until 2018, when it recorded losses of S$54.4 million. The exception to this was in 2015, when it narrowed its losses to S$17.4 million.

Meanwhile, Robinsons’ topline shrunk. It generated S$153.8 million in revenue in 2018, down from the S$257.3 million it made in 2014.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Robinsons has shown signs of further strain with the closure of its 85,000 sq ft outlet at Jem shopping mall in May. At the time, it had similarly told BT that competition from the rapid increase in suburban malls had made having multiple, large-scale department stores in Singapore unsustainable “well before” the pandemic surfaced. Even so, “the challenges we are facing with the ongoing Covid-19 situation are extremely difficult and the uncertainty is very unsettling for all”, it added.

Robinsons said its stores in Malaysia, located at Shoppes at Four Seasons Place and The Gardens Mall, will also undergo a similar liquidation process concurrently.

Other department stores could find themselves in Robinsons’ shoes.

In August, Japanese department store operator Isetan Singapore recorded a net loss of S$317,000 for the quarter to June 30, compared with a net profit of S$1.6 million in the same period a year earlier. This was mainly due to a decline in sales as well as impairment losses on financial assets.

It had also warned that the retail environment remains “very challenging” and that a material recovery is not expected in 2020.

Robinson’s Singapore, set up over a century ago in 1858 by John Spicer, an immigrant from Australia and Philip Robinson, a former jail keeper in Singapore, in Commercial Square (now Raffles Place) as Spicer and Robinson, once one of Singapore’s largest retailers. It was apparently to Malayans what Harrods is to Londoners. Spicer left the business in 1859 when it became Robinson and Co.



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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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