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Tourism stakeholders voice concern over non-implementation of debt moratorium extension

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By Hrian H.Senewiratne

The Cabinet approved a six- month moratorium extension for the tourism sector 21 days ago but it’s yet to be implemented, president, Tourist Hotels Association

M. Shanthikumar said.

“The entire tourism industry is on the verge of collapse and accommodation providers and other service providers are on the brink of closure or have already closed. The debt moratorium which was given by banks will end this month and the moratorium needs to be extended amid the current crisis, Shanthikumar told the media at a press conference at Hotel Ramada on Monday.

While thanking Minister Harin Fernando for getting swift Cabinet approval for the moratorium extension, Shanthikumar expressed surprise at the almost one- month delay in implementing it by the Central Bank and another committee appointed to oversee it.

“The US dollar loans that were taken by tourism stakeholders to develop their respective properties add up to around Rs. 500 million (with interest) to banks and the industry is asking for a six -month debt moratorium extension for this. This will also not have a major negative impact on the banking industry as our industry’s total borrowings are only around 5 per cent of the total lendings of banks, Asoka Hettigoda, another major figure in the tourism industry told the press conference.

“If the industry is not offered this moratorium and they are unable to meet their debt obligations it will have a negative impact on the entire banking sector and its non- performing loan ratio which in turn will reflect badly on the banks, he said.

Hettigoda added: “The tourism sector has also been a very faithful paymaster and when the industry recovers the loans due to the banks can and would be settled.

Another stalwart in the industry, Anura Lokuhetty, said that already some hotels, specially in the SME sector, are closing down and if the moratorium is not extended for another six months there will be a total job loss of around 40 per cent, which is around 200,000 jobs; a very alarming scenario for the economy. “It must be said that if this happens, calculating also dependents of tourism industry personnel, the loss of livelihoods would be around one million.”

“We are confident that the industry is on the recovery path and the industry is confident that it can net in tourism forex in excess of USD 1 billion from the remaining six months. Sri Lanka is heading for the winter season and we see a very positive trend in our forward bookings despite the current economic and political issues in Sri Lanka. We saw this positive vibe even during the LTTE separatist war, another Industry giant Hiran Cooray said.

Cooray said that in the first five months of the year the tourism industry earned more than US $ 400 million and the coming six month would be crucial for the industry with the upcoming winter season. “If the government considers the debt moratorium for the next six months the industry could bring more than US $ one billion in foreign reserves into the country, he said.

Cooray said due to the Russian war, travel to the EU is restricted and the industry expects the Russian and the Chinese markets to also reopen soon, allowing the tourism industry to go beyond the USD 1 billion revenue mark for the next six months.

Meanwhile, Nilmin Nanayakkara, who is also a tourism industry live-wire said that they are asking for the moratorium because tourist arrivals have dropped due to the May 9 incident and political mismanagement. “The industry did not create this negative sentiment and we are not responsible for this and this accounts for the request by the industry for a moratorium, he said.

“We have to save this industry from drowning. Since the Easter Sunday bomb blast followed by the pandemic, the sector survived purely due to the moratorium extended by the government and the relief package given for its survival. Hotels that employ over 70 per cent of the workforce were able to sustain the staff and cover the basic costs due to these relief measures, he added.

Members of THASL and SLAITO alone invest over Rs. 2 billion annually to promote Sri Lanka in overseas markets. This is over and above the contribution of 1 per cent of the turnover from the industry to SLTDA in the form of TDL to develop and promote tourism. In 2018, this was an additional Rs 1.5 billion.



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Dialog impacted by further forex losses in Q2, accumulated NPAT in 1H negative Rs28.3Bn

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Dialog Axiata PLC announced, Tuesday 09th August 2022, its consolidated financial results for the six months ended 30th June 2022. Financial results included those of Dialog Axiata PLC (the “Company”) and of the Dialog Axiata Group (the “Group”).

Sri Lanka continued to be battered by the socio-economic crisis in Q2 2022 which led to adverse movements in macro variables such as Sri Lankan Rupee (“LKR”) depreciating 23% against the United States Dollar (“USD”), Inflation rising to 54.6% (from 18.7% recorded by end Q1 2022), policy rates increasing by 8 percentage points and 12-month T-Bill rate increasing to 21% (from 12% recorded by end Q1 2022).

Despite the challenging environment witnessed in Q2 2022, the Group sustained its consistent performance to record strong Revenue growth across all business segments, namely, Mobile, Fixed Line, Digital Pay Television, International and Tele-infrastructure, relative to prior periods, namely, Year-to-Date (“YTD”) and Quarter-on-Quarter (“QoQ”). Accordingly, the Group recorded consolidated Revenue of Rs.81.6Bn for 1H 2022 and Rs43.3Bn for Q2 2022. However, driven by higher network spend and escalation in the cost base, Group Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation (“EBITDA”) declined to Rs27.5Bn for 1H 2022 down by a moderate 1% YTD. On a QoQ basis EBITDA declined 14% to record Rs12.7Bn for Q2 2022.

The Group Net Profit After Tax (“NPAT”) was impacted by the forex losses amid continued depreciation of the Sri Lankan Rupee (“LKR”) against the United States Dollar (“USD”). The resulting forex losses reached Rs.14.2Bn for Q2 2022 and Rs.34.3Bn for 1H 2022. The forex losses were predominantly contributed by market-to-market translational losses from USD denominated borrowings.

Group NPAT recorded a loss of Rs28.3Bn for 1H 2022 and a loss of Rs12.5Bn for Q2 2022 amid forex losses. Normalised for the said forex losses, NPAT continued to decline albeit recording profits of Rs6.0Bn for 1H 2022 and Rs1.6Bn for Q2 2022.

Dialog Group continued to be a significant contributor to state revenues, remitting a total of Rs16.9Bn to the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) during the first six months of 2022. Total remittances included Direct Taxes and Levies amounting to Rs9.2Bn and Rs7.7Bn in Consumption Taxes collected on behalf of the GoSL. The total taxes paid increased 46% YTD and 56% QoQ. The Direct Taxes included Rs3.8Bn paid during the quarter in lieu of one-off Surcharge Tax of 25% applicable on PAT of FY2020.

The Group continued to support critical investments in 1H 2022 to provide seamless and consistent connectivity whilst meeting the surge in data demand. Accordingly, the Capital expenditure reached Rs22.4Bn for 1H 2022. Capital expenditure was directed towards investments in High-Speed Broadband infrastructure to further expand Dialog’s leadership in Sri Lanka’s Broadband sector. In line with the above Capex, the Group Operating Free Cash Flow (“OFCF”) declined to Rs2.8Bn for 1H 2022.

During the quarter the Dialog Group entered into loan agreement of up to USD150Mn with the International Finance Corporation (“IFC”) that is expected to help expand and improve the network capacity through the upgrading of existing sites and the deployment of new 4G sites. IFC will also ensure that Dialog adopts an enhanced environmental and social management system (ESMS) according to IFC Performance Standards for their mobile network deployment, in line with Dialog’s endeavors of pursuing green connectivity, supporting global climate action goals and achieving net-zero CO2 emission by 2050.

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Emirates invests over US$ 2 billion to take its on-board customer experience to new heights

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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.

Specialised Hospitality Training for Cabin Crew: Emirates has partnered with Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, one of the world’s top hospitality management schools, to craft the Emirates Hospitality strategy and encourage inspiring customer experiences. Emirates Cabin Crew have already begun engaging in intensive training programmes focused on delivering the four service pillars: Excellence, Attentiveness, Innovation and Passion.

Upgraded Cabin Interiors in all Classes: The most significant investment is an extensive and record-breaking refurbishment of the aircraft fleet interiors, where cabins will be retrofitted with new or reupholstered seats, new panelling, flooring and other cabin features. Benefitting all Emirates passengers, every cabin class will be refreshed and new Premium Economy cabins installed. After the retrofit, Emirates will have a total of 120 aircraft offering Premium Economy seats – the only airline in the region to offer this cabin class, and enhanced interiors and features across all other cabins. With its first aircraft scheduled to roll into the Emirates Engineering Centre for retrofitting in November, planning work and trials have begun in earnest.

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Janashakthi Life strengthens board with two new appointments

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Janashakthi Insurance PLC, one of the key players in Sri Lanka’s insurance industry, announced the appointments of Sivakrishnarajah Renganathan and Dr. Nishan de Mel as Independent Non-Executive Directors of the organization with effect from 27th July 2022.

“We are pleased to welcome S. Renganathan and Dr. Nishan de Mel to the Board of Janashakthi Insurance PLC, as we continue to accelerate the execution of our strategic priorities to expand our presence in the Life Insurance segment,” said Prakash Schaffter, Executive Deputy Chairman of Janashakthi Insurance PLC.

“Renganathan joins us with a rich tenure of 41 years in the banking sector and extensive financial and managerial experience which will provide valuable insights as we continue to pursue our growth journey. Dr. de Mel is an economist with extensive knowledge and experience in strategic planning, that will enable our growth strategy to drive transformation through effective strategic planning. We are confident that they will provide valuable perspectives and will create a new dynamic within the Board as we continue to transform the insurance industry to better serve our customers and communities”, he concluded.

Sivakrishnarajah Renganathan is the former Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer of Commercial Bank of Ceylon PLC, Commercial Development Co., PLC and Deputy Chairman of Commercial Bank of Maldives. He had held several key positions in the Bank. He has led Commercial Bank’s acquisition of the banking operations of Credit Agricole Indosuez in Bangladesh. In addition, he has served among others, as a Member of the General Council of the Institute of Bankers of Bangladesh, Founder / President of the Sri Lanka Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Executive Member of the Foreign Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Bangladesh.

Renganathan, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, UK (FCMA), Fellow of the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA), Fellow of the London Institute of Banking & Finance, UK (FLIBF) and a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers Sri Lanka (FIB), had received extensive Leadership, Management and Banking training, both locally and overseas.

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