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The uphill battle towards pharmaceutical self-sufficiency

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Can the local industry do more for less?

Sri Lanka’s pharmaceutical sector has stepped up to the plate during the past two years working tirelessly to cater to the national demand for drugs in the midst of import restrictions compelled by the global pandemic. The industry revival is a result of the Memorandum of Understanding followed by a Joint-Venture Agreement signed between State Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Corporation (SPMC) & the members of the National Chamber of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of Sri Lanka (NCPM) in 2017. At present, 15- 20% of the total local drug requirement is fulfilled by SPMC, joint venture partners of SPMC – under strict adherence to quality standards stipulated by the SPMC and other homegrown manufacturers.

Pharmaceutical self-sufficiency falls in line with the national priority of retaining foreign currency in the country. Empowering local pharma is a win-win for all parties involved because it gives citizens better access to Government (SPMC) approved high quality medicine for affordable prices while generating occupational opportunities for local youth. In order to achieve self-sustainability local industry would require FDIs which would in turn bring international technology & know-how to Sri Lanka paving the way for the country to emerge as a ‘pharma hub’ capitalizing on the country’s strategic location in the Indian Ocean. The construction of three ‘pharma zones’ has already commenced in Anuradhapura, Hambantota & Millawa intending to attract such investments. The Millawa SPMC zone, largest of the three, is slated to house four state-of-the-art factories within it. The President of NCPM Dr. Lohitha Samarawickrema in a letter to media dated August 4 however said that the biggest impediment for yielding the optimum benefit from this joint venture is misinformation. He went on to say that contradictory reports create a sense of anxiety among the Sri Lankan public as well as demotivate potential local & foreign investors. According to NCPM President, up to 80-85% of the local production catering to ~15% of the total demand is supplied by SPMC joint venture stakeholders. The stakeholders collectively manufacture over 300 varieties of drugs which are then quality-tested and distributed through the state manufacturer (SPMC). He said the success of this Public-Private Partnership could augur well for the country’s economy as well as the general wellbeing of citizens and thus should not be stigmatized without a fair assessment. Given the strategic location of Sri Lanka, Dr. Samarawickrema went on to add that Sri Lanka was being seriously considered to be developed as a hub for vaccine manufacturing with Asian and African markets in mind. In that regard, a feasibility study is already underway to establish a vaccine manufacturing enterprise as a joint venture between Sri Lanka’s Kelun Life Sciences and China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. The local partner of this venture is the first homegrown manufacturer of saline & is credited with propelling Sri Lanka to full self-sufficiency in same. It has been reported that since the beginning of Covid-19, 200 new vaccine manufacturers have joined the production pipeline. The United States of America, Canada, Brazil and Mexico are considered the top vaccine manufacturers while some Latin American countries are among the Top 20 ranked vaccine manufacturers with self-sufficiency up to about 72%.

This NCPM-SPMC venture is especially meaningful considering that it served to positively disrupt the state monopoly on pharmaceutical drugs thereby ushering in new possibilities and opportunities for private sector stakeholders for productive collaboration. The Chamber firmly believes Pharma Industry’s initiative to work closely with the private sector sets a welcome precedent for other state sector enterprises, too, to follow suit. Combining the State sector’s integrity and welfare-mindedness with the Private sector’s efficiency and ingenuity can elevate the local pharma sector from self-sufficiency to unprecedented heights from a trade standpoint. Pharma has immense potential to become one of the top foreign revenue earners for Sri Lanka in the ensuing years with due patronage from the State.



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Teejay achieves milestone US$ 250 million in sales in 2021-22

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Teejay Lanka PLC has reported a revenue milestone of Rs 50 billion at Group level for FY 2021-22, achieving its first annual sales of a quarter of a billion in US Dollar terms at the rates of exchange that prevailed during the year.A strong fourth quarter during which revenue grew 38% to Rs 13.5 billion, the highest quarter revenue since the Company’s inception, enabled Sri Lanka’s largest textile manufacturer to achieve 12-month sales growth of Rs 17.8 billion or 56% to end what was a challenging year for businesses in general, on a high note.

The Group posted profit before tax of Rs 2.887 billion and net profit of Rs 2.517 billion for the year ending 31st March 2022, recording healthy growth of 11% and 18% respectively. Net profit for the fourth quarter was Rs 826.2 million, reflecting an improvement of 9%.At company level, Teejay Lanka increased revenue by 40% to Rs 29.4 billion for the year, and reported pre-tax profit of Rs 2.6 billion and net profit of Rs 2.4 billion, achieving growth of 23% and 24% respectively.

Elaborating on the Group’s performance, Teejay Lanka Chairman Mr Ajit Gunewardene said the revenue increase was the result of increased demand from the region. The enhanced volumes were delivered with the increased capacity within the Group and the support of outsourced partners, he said.Gunewardene said, however, that margins had been impacted during the year because of the upsurges in the prices of cotton, oil, freight, dyes, chemicals, and auxiliaries. “The increase in the costs of inputs has been the biggest challenge during the year,” he said, disclosing that enhancing efficiency within the Group and increasing prices to customers were the key strategies to counter the challenge.

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Nippon Paint Lanka accredited by Great Place to Work®

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Nemantha Abeysinghe, General Manager – Nippon Paints Lanka (Pvt) Ltd receiving the accreditation from Ms. Hasini Abeywardena, Project Manager – Great Place to Work Sri Lanka

Nippon Paint Lanka (Pvt) Limited has been certified as one of the best workplaces in the country. The Japanese coatings company in Sri Lanka has received this recognition in the manufacturing and production industry category by the globally famed Great Place to Work®.

“We embarked on this to understand employee perceptions of the company. We are proud to have received this honor in our journey towards building and sustaining a high-work ethic, and performance culture,” said General Manager of Nippon Paint Lanka, Nemantha Abeysinghe. “Being recognized as a ‘Great Place to Work-Certified’ organization is an honor and a tribute to the hard work, pride, and dedication put in by every member of Nippon Paint Lanka. We went the extra mile during the COVID period to extend to our employees, special working hours, perks and annual bonuses despite a countrywide lockdown. As a result, the company saw everyone dedicating their efforts more than two hundred percent to uplifting the business.”

“Being certified as a Great workplace indicates that we have differentiated ourselves by creating a great place to work for employees and established Nippon Paint Lanka as an employer of choice. It has passed the rigorous measurement through analysis of results of the Great Place to Work® Trust Index© survey,” Abeysinghe added. Great Place to Work® research is backed by data compiled by assessing over 100 million employees around the globe. Every year, they conduct the world’s largest study of workplace culture and hold the gold standard benchmarks for each country, industry, location and more. Companies that want to be on a Best Workplace list start by getting Great Place to Work-Certified™. Through the Certification process, they capture employee feedback and details about the programs and practices that make a workplace unique.

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Clarification on default status helps boost share market

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne

Business confidence will likely build up in the wake of Central Bank Governor Dr Nandalal Weerasinghe telling the media yesterday that Sri Lanka was not facing a hard default but a pre-emptive default, which entailed informing about the payment of funds beforehand until the IMF debt restructure plan comes into play.Further, JP Morgan, a leading investment bank in the United States is on record that with the recent political changes, the current political crisis in Sri Lanka will stand defused and the value of bonds will rise. This would also create some impetus for the stock market, analysts said.

They point out that political stability will lead to a rise in the value of bonds above current lows. The Bank predicts that this will facilitate discussions with the International Monetary Fund as well as the process of appointing legal and financial advisors.

“We think this stability should result in both IMF discussions and the process of appointing legal and financial advisors moving forward,” Reuters said quoting JPMorgan analysts.

“Political stability should pave the way for bonds to move higher from near all-time lows,” JPMorgan analysts added.

Amid those developments stock market trading activities started on a positive note and later moved downwards. The All- Share Price Index went down by 243 points down and S and P SL20 declined by 94.9 points. Turnover stood at Rs 1.5 billion minus a crossing.In the retail market top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were; Expolanka Holdings Rs 777 million (3.7 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 204 million (24.8 million shares traded), LOLC Finance Rs 130 million (13.9 million shares traded), LOLC Holdings Rs 70.7 million (127,000 shares traded), Softlogic Life Insurance Rs 56.8 million (914,000 shares traded), Royal Ceramic Rs 33 million (one million shares traded) and Lanka IOC Rs 30.3 million (752,000 shares traded). During the day 69 million share volumes changed hands in 17000 transactions.

It is said that following four sessions of sharp gains recorded in the CSE soon after the appointing of Ranil Wickramasinghe Prime Minister, indices edged down due to profit-taking in heavyweight stocks across sectors due to faulty speculation on the market. However, activity picked up to stronger levels with turnover surpassing Rs. 3 billion for the first time in nine weeks, largely boosting blue- chips, market analysts said.Yesterday, the Central Bank announced the US dollar buying rate as Rs 354.56 and the selling rate as Rs 364.53. The rupee rate has appreciated as against the dollar as certain policy measures have been adopted to bridge the gap between the Central Bank rate and the kerb market rate.

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