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Shortage of medicines likely to exacerbate from Paracetamol to life-saving drugs: SLCPI

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From left: Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry Treasurer Dinesh Athapaththu, Vice President Azam Jaward, Senior Vice President M. Prathaban, President Sanjiva Wijesekera, Immediate Past President Kasturi Chellaraja Wilson, Council Members Adrian Basnayake and Jude Fernando

by Sanath Nanayakkare

The current shortage of Paracetamol and Panadol in the market could aggravate to a situation where life-saving drugs would not be available to patients in a few months, Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) warned yesterday.

“This could happen if the US dollar shortage is not properly addressed and a realistic pricing formula for imported medicines is not introduced forthwith by the authorities,” they said.

“At present, the shortage of medicines is about 5%. One might say it is small or unimportant as to be not worth considering. But in 4-6 weeks from now it could increase to about 25%,” they warned.

SLCPI made these comments at a press briefing held at Taj Samudra Colombo.

“We have a fear. We want to update the general public of Sri Lanka on the current situation with regard to medicine imports because what is on the horizons is not good. Delays at the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA), the unrealistic price mechanism and the dollar crisis are biting our industry. The dollar crisis is common to every industry, but we also have a serious problem as medicine importers. Until last month, we didn’t have a major crisis. But this month and in the last two weeks, the banks have been advised to prioritise allocation of dollars for fuel purchases and it appears that medicine imports have received de-prioritisation on the list of essential imports. If this trend continues, we will have a serious problem in even importing life-saving drugs. At the moment, it is under control. We have to inform the general public of the evolving situation,” Azam Jaward, Vice President, SLCPI said.

“The last price increase on drugs was allowed in August 2021 when the USD was trading at Rs. 194. Now the dollar has incresed to Rs. 203 which is the ‘published rate’ by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, but unfortunately there is no mechanism to address the current disparity in the exchange rate. We need asustainable pricing mechanism which addresses the exchange rate, freight rate, current global prices, inflation, cost of fuel etc,” they said.

“Our industry is quite energy-driven. Some drugs need to be stored in temperatures between 2- 8 Celsius. Some need -20 Celsius. If we don’t have electricity, we face big issues. We have to run generators and multiple storage facilities. At present, we are managing it. But all of this depends on the availability of fuel. To run a generator for 7-8 hours a day, we need 2,000 litres of diesel per day,” they said.

“The NMRA charges dollars from us to register a product. They adjust it monthly based on the change of the exchange rate. The government has a fee- charging mechanism based on the US dollar. Then why don’t they do the same for drugs that are imported for sale? These are two conflicting policies,” they argued.

“We don’t need a price increase. Just amend the prices relative to the value of the dollar. For this we need an intervention by the Central Bank. If we can obtain a monthly allocation of USD 25-30 million per month, we believe that we can supply essential drugs to the general public without any disruption,” they said.

“We have had discussions with the authorities on these matters and we have submitted these facts for them to consider, but we have not yet achieved any results other than discussions.There is undue delay at the NMRA in granting the re-registration of products which have been available in the market for a considerable period, and new product registrations. With regulatory fees increasing by an average of 11-fold, the service of the regulator is below expectation,” they said.

Some excerpts of the SLCPI press statement are reproduced below.

“Over 85% of pharmaceutical products are imported, and these imports are paid for by US dollars. The current US dollar shortage in the country has increased the difficulty of importing essential medicines. In addition to this, companies have been unable to pay their dues. As a result, suppliers are no longer interested in supplying to Sri Lanka.”

“The situation is further worsened as banks find it difficult to honour the Letters of Credit (LCs) that are opened to import drugs. Banks delay opening the LCs until there are sufficient dollars. This has resulted in shipments being scheduled according to the availability of dollars and not according to the needs of the patients.”

acceptable pricing mechanism as well as immediately ironing out NMRA red tape for registrations are prerequisites for resolving this crisis.”

SLCPI serves as the representative of over 60 members who account for more than 80% of the private pharmaceutical industry, spanning manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers. These stakeholders supply Sri Lankan patients with 1,200 molecules from 435 manufacturers from across the world.

SLCPI told The Island that banks ask them to purchase dollars from exporters to finance their medicine imports, but when they reach exporters to buy their dollars, they ask Rs. 245 per US dollar which is the price in the gray market. “So, how can we buy dollars from them and import and sell at controlled prices?” they said.



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Seylan Bank records Rs. 1.5 Bn PAT for 1H 2022

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Seylan Bank recorded a Profit after Tax of Rs. 1,504 Mn for the 6 months ended 30th June 2022 against Rs. 2,105 Mn reported in the corresponding period of 2021. This has been seen by financial analysts as commendable given the extremely challenging and adverse conditions the Bank operated in, with Sri Lanka facing its worst economic crisis since Independence, especially in Q2 this year.

Net Interest income increased from Rs. 10,971 Mn to Rs 16,851 Mn, a growth of 53.60% over the previous year for the 6 months ended 30th June 2022. The Bank’s net fee based income increased by 27.36% from Rs. 2,180 Mn to Rs. 2,776 Mn during 1H, mainly due to an increase in debit and credit card related income, commission income on e-banking, service charges on deposits and commission on remittances which were partly offset by decrease in guarantees related income and loans and advances related income. Other income captions comprising net gains from trading activities, net gains from de-recognition of financial assets, net gains on foreign exchange transactions and other operating income increased by 37.20 % a net gain from Rs. 1,526 Mn from the correspondent year to a net gain of Rs. 2,093 Mn during 1H 2022. The net increase is mainly due to increase in mark to market net gain on derivative financial instruments and impact from net revaluation losses on FCY assets and liabilities.

Total expenses recorded an increase of 7.43 % from Rs. 6,750 Mn in the 1H of the previous year to Rs. 7,251 Mn for the 6 months ended 30th June 2022. Personnel expenses increased by Rs. 287 Mn mainly due to an increase in the staff benefits based on the collective agreement. Other operating expenses and depreciation and amortisation expenses too increased by 7.35% due to increase in prices of purchases and services as a result of higher inflation and local currency depreciation. However, the Bank will continue to take relevant measures to curtail costs with various cost initiatives.

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CSE turnover exceeds Rs. 6 billion as bullish trend accelerates

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne

CSE activities were extremely bullish yesterday as market turnover exceeded Rs 6 billion after seven months and the All- Share Price Index surpassed 9000 points for the first time since March 31 this year, stock market analysts said.

All blue chip company shares appreciated by more than five per cent, driven mainly by Lanka IOC and Hayleys. The reason for the market being upbeat was the relative political stability which has come into being under President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who spearheads an effort to establish a national government with some other political parties in parliament, together with the gradual movement of the economy despite all odds, stock market analysts opined.

Observers are of the view that Sri Lanka stock market is still one of the most attractive emerging stock markets in the region. It is said that during 2011/12 the stock market was at the 7000 points level and after ten years, i.e. 2022, the stock market is at 9000 points level. Besides, Sri Lanka’s equity market is ranked as one of the top most of such markets.

Amid those developments both indices moved upwards. The All- Share Price Index moved up by 321 points or 3.69 per cent and closed at 9027.48 points and the S and P SL20 rose by 159.5 points. Turnover stood at Rs 6.3 billion with four crossings. Those crossings were reported in Melstacorp, which crossed 5.2 million shares to the tune of Rs 280 million, its shares traded at Rs 54, JKH 500,000 shares crossed to the tune of Rs 64 million, its shares traded at Rs 128, Kahawatte Plantations one million shares crossed to the tune of Rs 27 million and its shares fetched Rs 27 and Hayleys 200,000 shares crossed for Rs 22 million; its share price stood at Rs 110.

In the retail market, top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, Lanka IOC Rs 1.4 billion (8.7 million shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 720 million (3.3 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 339 million (41.7 million shares traded), Hayleys Rs 326 million (2.8 million shares traded), JKH Rs 294 million (2.3 million shares traded), Melstacorp Rs 235 million (4.4 million shares traded) and Dipped Products Rs 199 million (4.3 million shares traded). During the day 209 million share volumes changed hands in 47000 share transactions.

Lanka IOC and Hayleys drove the market. Lanka IOC shares moved to Rs 27.75 or rose by 20 per cent. Its share price rose to Rs 172.50 from Rs 144.75 and Hayleys share price gained by 11 per cent or Rs 11.75. Its share price moved to Rs 119.75 from Rs 106.25.Yesterday, the Central Bank announced the US dollar buying rate as Rs 357.24 and the selling rate as Rs 368.56.

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Sampath Bank remains vibrant, backed by strong capital and liquidity positions

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Sampath Bank continued to maintain a solid capital base and stable liquidity profile in the first half of 2022 notwithstanding multiple economic challenges. The Bank remains vigilant in identifying the current economic issues and has continued to implement in a proactive manner the required countermeasures, clearly demonstrating its strength and stability.

In line with that objective and in order to improve the foreign currency liquidity position, the Bank continues to focus and promote inward remittances as well as to encourage the inflow of export proceeds. The Bank further reinforced its commitment to all its stakeholders by continuing to support all affected segments to sustain their respective businesses in order to ride out the current economic crisis.

Despite the prevailing economic turmoil, the Bank posted a commendable PAT of Rs 7.1 Bn and PBT of Rs 9 Bn for the period ended 30th June 2022, reflecting a minor increase of 0.3% and slight decrease of 5.5% respectively compared to the figures declared in 1H 2021. In the meantime, the Group declared a PAT of Rs 7.4 Bn and PBT of Rs 9.6 Bn, denoting a decline of 2% and 5.5% respectively over the first half of 2021.

Key financial highlights declared by Sampath Bank for 1H 2022:

Strong NIM of 4.85% on the back of rising AWPLR.

323% growth in exchange income stemming from the sharp depreciation of LKR against USD by 80% or by Rs 160.25.

Sizable 69.9% increase in net fee and commission income during the period, driven by cards and trade-related operations.

Higher impairment provisions on loans and investments to capture possible economic uncertainties.

A surcharge tax of Rs 2.67 Bn recognized against the opening retained earnings of the Bank.

Fund Based Income

Total interest income increased by 41.1 % year on year to Rs 59.2 Bn in the first half of 2022, compared to Rs 41.9 Bn in the same period of the previous year. This significant increase in interest income is due to the upward trend in interest rates in the first half of 2022. The AWPLR at the end of the reporting period reached 22.62%, which is 1,711 bps higher than the rate reported on 30th June 2021. Furthermore, the current AWPLR surpassed the end 2021 figure by 1,401 bps. At the same time, the interest rate on a one-year treasury bill climbed by 1,861 bps from the treasury bill rate reported at end of 30th June 2021 and stood at 23.84% at the end of 30th June 2022.

Interest expenses increased by 22.6% compared to the corresponding period of last year due to rising interest trend. The Bank’s total interest expense was Rs 27.8 Bn at the end of the current reporting period compared to Rs 22.7 Bn reported in 1H 2021. Prudent asset and liability management however ensured that net interest income grew by 63% in 1H 2022. This trend is reflected in the NIM growth of 124 bps reported for the period.

Non-Fund based income

The Bank recorded a significant increase of 69.9% in its net fee and commission income (NFCI) in 1H 2022 compared to the same period of the previous year. NFCI is made up of income from a variety of sources, including loans and advances, credit cards, trade, and electronic channels. In the period under review, significant growth was noted in card-related business volumes and as well as fee and commission income from trade-related activities.

During the first half of 2022, net other operating income increased to Rs 16 Bn, an unprecedented 378% increase compared to Rs 3.4 Bn recorded in the corresponding period of the previous year. This was mainly due to the 80% depreciation of LKR against US Dollar. Meanwhile, the Bank posted a net trading loss of Rs 2.5 Bn, compared to the gain of Rs 46 Mn reported during the corresponding period of the previous financial year. Total exchange income for the first six months of 2022 was Rs 13 Bn compared Rs 3 Bn registered in 1H 2021.

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