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SL embassy in rok aggressively promotes economic diplomacy through webinars

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The Commercial Division of the embassy of Sri Lanka in the Republic of Korea has been tenaciously and aggressively promoting economic, investment and commercial activity with particular focus on exports from Sri Lanka to the RoK and attraction of foreign direct investments (FDIs) and international joint ventures, among others, to boost and augment the economy of Sri Lanka, given the slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the last couple of months, the embassy in Seoul conducted webinars to promote the exports of tea to the RoK, establish linkages for processing of gems and jewelry as well as exports to the RoK, use Sri Lanka as a hub for boat manufacturing and ship building and high-level meeting with the president and top most management of Hanseo University to establish a branch (FDI) in Sri Lanka, among others.

The embassy in close coordination with the Tea Association of Korea and Sri Lanka Tea Board as well as a large number of importers of Ceylon Tea and potential importers conducted a 90-minute webinar, which included a short video of Ceylon Tea, addresses by Jayampathi Molligoda, chairman of Sri Lanka Tea Board; Niraj De Mel, Deputy chairman of Ceylon Tea Brokers PLC; Shawn S. Jung, Chairman of Tea Association of Korea and opening and closing remarks by ambassador Dr. A. Saj U. Mendis and Ms. Rekha Mallikarachchi, Minister Counsellor (Commercial) of the Embassy of Sri Lanka respectively.

Ambassador Dr. Mendis stated in his opening remarks that the quantum of cups of tea sold in year 2016 has increased by three times, now, thus clearly and lucidly manifesting the growing demand of tea in the RoK. The chairman of Sri Lanka Tea Board and Deputy Chairman of Ceylon Tea Brokers PLC accentuated and illustrated the utility and benefits of tea for health and wellbeing as well as the illustrious history of tea in Sri Lanka for nearly two centuries. Over 80 business houses and importers as well as interested parties pro-actively participated at this fascinating webinar titled “Ceylon Tea Tasting”.

The embassy in close collaboration with Korea Gem Trade Association known as KGTA and National Gem and Jewelry Authority (NGJA) of Sri Lanka conducted a webinar, along with comprehensive graphic presentations, in order to promote exports of gems and jewelry to the RoK. Tilak Weerasinghe, chairman of NGJA and Hong Jae Young, chairman of KGTA as well as the ambassador Dr. Mendis and Minister Counsellor Ms. Mallikarachchi, among others, addressed the webinar. One of the key attributes was to encourage and lure the corporate houses specialized in gems and precious stones to be engaged with Sri Lanka in the sphere of gems and jewelry leading to international joint ventures. Further, the speakers stated that Sri Lanka possesses exquisite craftsmanship and sophisticated creativity, blended with modern technology, thus focusing on excellence on designing and fashioning, making Sri Lanka a unique hub for gems and jewelry in Asia. This webinar too was attended by a large number of participants from both ends of the equation.

Since Sri Lanka has the capacity and technical know-how in boat and shipbuilding industry for many decades, the embassy in close cooperation with Korea Medium & Small Shipbuilding Industry Cooperative (KOMSSIC) and Sri Lanka Boat Building Industry conducted a webinar to profile and project the capacities of Sri Lanka in this sphere. Gamini Herath, Managing Director of boat building Technology Improvement Institute (BTI) and Bae Chui-nam, Executive Director of KOMSSIC made presentations and addresses of the capacities, necessities and requirements of this sector. Both ambassador Dr. Mendis and Commercial Minister Counsellor Ms. Mallikarachchi delivered the opening and closing remarks. Dr. Mendis stated that this sector has a distinct advantage to become a hub in the entire Asian region due to its strategic location, highly trainable and adaptable workforce, state-of-the-art technology, proven expertise and advantage of cost of labor, amongothers.



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SriLankan Engineering converts Airbus A320 passenger aircraft to a cargo freighter for operator Fits Air

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SriLankan Engineering the engineering and maintenance arm of SriLankan Airlines, has entered into a strategic collaboration with UK-based Avensis Aviation to offer Maintenance (MRO) services for the embodiment of Passenger-to-Freighter (PTF) conversions for Airbus A320 and A330 aircraft.

The first output of this collaboration was the embodiment of a PTF conversion of an Airbus A320 aircraft for the operator FitsAir which was recently completed on time and within the budget.

SriLankan Engineering is an EASA approved MRO facility with major maintenance check capability at its base in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The expansion into aircraft modification and conversions is part of its strategy to rapidly develop its maintenance portfolio and thereby attract foreign airlines to Sri Lanka for maintenance services.

“With Covid restricting passenger travel, many airlines and aircraft leasing companies are converting passenger aircraft into cargo freighters. SriLankan Airlines has already converted its own aircraft and has the expertise to offer this service externally. The cargo conversion market is booming, and we are getting onboard at the right time. Avensis Aviation is the ideal partner for us as they bring in the modification approvals and the customer reach.” said Shevantha Weerasekera Head of Engineering for SriLankan Airlines.

“Avensis Aviation provides innovative and scalable aircraft conversion solutions ranging from its light ‘LEVIS’ Preighter conversion to ‘NAVIS’ full freighter conversion through its European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) approved modification,” said Rubin Flower (Director of Business Development Avensis Aviation).

Asitha Ranaweera Deputy Chief Officer for FitsAir stated, “Though it seemed a simple straightforward process, working remotely with a designer, covid protocols, regulatory compliances made the project slightly complicated. However, the Sri Lankan Engineering team has stood up to the task and performed well to deliver the aircraft in an excellent condition.”

The technical sales teams of SriLankan Engineering and Avensis will aggressively promote the aircraft conversion portfolio to attract more maintenance activity to Sri Lanka.

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Stability and sustainability underpin Q1 results for HNB

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HNB recorded a Profit After Tax (PAT) of Rs 4.7 Bn during the first quarter of 2021 while Profit Before income Tax (PBT) amounted to Rs 5.5 Bn. At Group level PBT and PAT were at Rs 5.9 Bn and Rs 4.8 Bn respectively.

The substantial monetary loosening adopted to revive the pandemic hit economy resulted in AWPLR dropping by nearly 400 bps over the past 12 months. This resulted in the interest income decreasing by 13% YoY to Rs 23.7 Bn. Interest expenses too exhibited a decline of 17.2% YoY to Rs 13.1 Bn driven by strong CASA (current accounts and savings accounts) mobilization. The CASA ratio improved from 36.2% in March 2020 to 39.7% by the end of Q1 2021 as the CASA base grew by 30% YoY to Rs 395 Bn. As a result, the Bank’s Net Interest Income (NII) for the first three months 2021 decreased by 7.2% YoY to Rs 10.6 Bn.

Commenting on the Bank’s results Managing Director / CEO of HNB Jonathan Alles stated: “HNB has demonstrated resilience, strength and stability during a year of unprecedented disruption. We are grateful for the complete trust and support of our customers, investors and other stakeholders throughout this time. I also wish to place on record my deepest appreciation for the unwavering dedication of our staff in continuing to serve our clientele through multiple waves of the pandemic, despite the inherent risks involved. Our top priority during this time was to ensure their safety while supporting customers affected by the pandemic.

“We provided moratoria under three phases while granting working capital finance out of CBSL schemes and our own funds. In addition to the financial assistance provided during the last year, we enhanced our digital proposition to ensure that customers could securely and reliably access all of our services while staying safe from the pandemic. This included introducing many new features on SOLO – our digital payment platform, and the launch of our new Digital Banking App and e-commerce capabilities for SME clients among many others. We are currently in the process of further refining these powerful new services, which will undoubtedly provide greater convenience for all HNB customers in the future.”

Net Fee and Commission income for the first quarter grew by 10.2% YoY to Rs 2.3 Bn as business activity rebounded during the period. The Credit Cards business, Trade and Remittances which constitute a major share of fees performed well despite restrictions on imports continuing to be in place. Other fee sources, which also encompass digital business lines rose by 24.4% YoY.

Exchange rate volatility and movements during the period, led to substantial revaluation gains on swaps and forward agreements. Swap costs were also lower relative to the corresponding quarter of 2020 as swap premiums declined in line with Dollar interest rates. Accordingly, the Bank recorded a net exchange gain of Rs 1.9 Bn which was a 53% YoY improvement compared to Q1 2020. The total dividend income from investments for Q1 2021 was Rs 421Mn compared to Rs 13Mn in the corresponding period of 2020, as dividends declared for the financial year 2019 were paid only in Q2 2020 due to the pandemic.

NPA ratio of the Bank improved marginally to 4.28% as at end of Q1 2021 compared to 4.31% as at end December 2020, as majority of customers who were previously under moratorium commenced repayments since October 2020. The impairment charge for the quarter ended 31st March 2021 was Rs 2.7Bn in comparison to Rs 4.7Bn recorded for Q1 2020. The impairment for Q1 2020 included a charge of Rs 708Mn on account of sovereign bonds mainly as a result of the sovereign downgrade that was effected in April 2020.

“More than a year after the pandemic, it is unfortunate that we are now seeing the most severe rise in COVID-19 cases to date. All of the lessons that we have learned over the past year will be put to the test. While progress has been made in terms of vaccinations, the economic impact of this latest wave of COVID-19 infections will hinge on how effectively we as a nation are able to rally together to control the spread of the virus.

In this crucial moment, as a responsible domestic systemically important bank, as always, we will continue to support our valued customers and play a meaningful role as an essential service provider. We have already enabled all our digital channels, and are also fully geared to support business revival and help rebuild our nation. We request the public to remain calm, adhering to all health and safety guidelines provided and to act with responsibility and compassion towards one another. We also urge the authorities to expand the vaccination programme and in particular seek their support to make vaccination a priority for front line and critical staff across the banking industry,” Alles stated.

The zealous focus on cost optimization facilitated a marginal 1% YoY dip in Operating costs to Rs 5.8 Bn. Cost to Income was hence improved by a commendable 170 bps relative to the comparative period in 2020 to 38% for Q1 2021.

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Green Energy Champion 2021 off to a great start!

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Applications welcome till 22nd May

The Green Energy Champion (GEC) 2021 which was launched earlier this year is off to a great start, to find the next set of green energy champions who will revolutionise the areas of sustainable mobility, energy efficiency, and renewable energies in Sri Lanka.

An invitation to all energy innovators was disseminated island wide in April and continues to remain open until 22nd May for all startups and SMEs in the country that possess creative and innovative products, activities, and projects which promote energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy solutions in Sri Lanka.

Green Energy Champion was initiated in 2016 with the aim of encouraging the innovation and implementation of Green Energy solutions in Sri Lanka, particularly to serve the day-to-day needs of the public. The first three editions witnessed excellent receptivity, with participants ranging from private households and universities to municipalities, public authorities, and small and medium-sized enterprises. The GEC campaign has also played a significant role in creating awareness and educating the general public on energy efficiency via print and online media over the years.

Green Energy Champion is implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, on behalf of the Federal Foreign Office, in association with the Sri Lankan Ministry of Power – State Ministry of Solar, Wind and Hydro Power Generation Projects Development.

The past competitions have unveiled several successful initiatives over the years – efficiently leveraging solar, biomass, and hydro energies to establish a shared vision where renewables form the basis of energy for the future. The previous winning entries succeeded tremendously in showcasing best-practice models for sustainable energy in the country while also paving the way for similar projects to be implemented in the future.

This year, the Green Energy Champion offers applicants the chance to gain exclusive access to an advanced business accelerator program – the Green Energy Champion Accelerator 2021, implemented by Hatch and Good Life X – which will help fine-tune and develop their business ideas while also preparing them for exciting local and international partnerships in the Green Energy ecosystem. Green Energy Champion is also offering up to LKR 1.5 million in product development support.

The six-month long accelerator program will be followed by a formal Partner Matchmaking Event aimed at facilitating networking amongst key green energy stakeholders. The final phase of Green Energy Champion 2021 will be marked by a ‘Demo Day’ where shortlisted candidates, having completed their training and networking requirements, will showcase their renewed ideas and solutions.

If you are in the business of energy sustainability, then there is no doubt that the Green Energy Champion is for you! The accelerator will actively support you with business and market intelligence to establish and grow your business, while also enabling you to identify potential opportunities and take calculated risks for smooth market entry. Furthermore, it will offer visibility among key political stakeholders while also extending potential penetration opportunities in global markets.

So, head on over to www.greenenergychampion.lk to apply or get more details on what is undoubtedly going to be a great opportunity for you and your business!

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