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Yemen’s Houthis warn they will target all Israel-bound ships in Red Sea

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[file pic] People walk down a ladder after they toured the Galaxy Leader commercial ship, seized by Yemen's Houthis last month, off the coast of al-Salif, Yemen (pic Aljazeera)

Yemen’s Houthi movement says it will target all ships heading to Israel, regardless of their nationality, and warned all international shipping companies against dealing with Israeli ports.

“If Gaza does not receive the food and medicines it needs, all ships in the Red Sea bound for Israeli ports, regardless of their nationality, will become a target for our armed forces,” the group’s spokesperson said in a statement on Saturday.

The threat has an immediate effect, the statement added.

The Iran-aligned group is escalating the risks of a regional conflict as Israel continues to bombard Gaza for a third month, killing more than 17,700 people so far and wounding nearly 49,000 others.

In recent weeks, the Houthis have attacked and seized several Israeli-linked ships in the Red Sea and its Bab al-Mandab Strait, a sea lane through which much of the world’s oil is shipped, and fired ballistic missiles and armed drones at Israel.

In one of the latest incidents, three commercial vessels came under attack in international waters last week, prompting a US Navy destroyer to intervene.

Last week, the Houthis attacked two ships off the Yemeni coast, including a Bahamas-flagged vessel, claiming they were Israeli owned.

And last month, the rebel forces seized Galaxy Leader, an Israeli-linked cargo vessel as they warned they would target all ships with links to Israel and called on different countries not to allow their nationals to serve as crew on these vessels.

Houthi officials say their actions are a show of support for the Palestinians. Israel says the attacks on ships was an “Iranian act of terrorism” with consequences for international maritime security.

The US and UK have condemned the attacks, blaming Iran for its role in supporting the Houthis. Tehran says its allies make their decisions independently.

(Aljazeera)



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HNB Assurance Group surpasses 20% growth mark for third consecutive year

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HNB Assurance Group recorded yet another year of exceptional performance, marking the third consecutive year of achieving a growth rate exceeding 20% in terms of GWP (Gross Written Premium). The year 2023 witnessed the Group achieving remarkable financial milestones and an array of local and international awards, solidifying its position as a frontrunner in the insurance industry.

HNB Assurance Group recorded a substantial GWP of LKR 18.7 Bn, showcasing a remarkable growth of 20% compared to the previous year. Reflecting on this achievement, Rose Cooray, Chairperson of HNBA and HNBGI, expressed her delight, stating, “To me personally, the remarkable growth trajectory of the HNB Assurance Group stands as a testament to our commitment to delivering value to our stakeholders.

Both teams at HNBA and HNBGI performed an outstanding job, leaving no stone unturned, meticulously analyzing every challenge, and capitalizing on every opportunity. Our Group assets grew by LKR 10 Bn during the year, well exceeding a remarkable total of LKR 51.2 Bn. Further, investment income for the Group surged to LKR 7.2 Bn, representing an outstanding growth of 49% from LKR 4.8 Bn in the preceding year. In terms of the Group’s profits, we recorded a commendable LKR 1.76 Bn in PAT.”

“Consistency has been our main focus and certainly the cornerstone of our success”, said Lasitha Wimalaratne, CEO of HNB Assurance PLC. At HNB Assurance, our track record speaks for itself. Year after year, we’ve demonstrated and honoured our commitment to our stakeholders and most importantly to our policyholders.

“I am delighted to highlight that as a team we have effectively translated our promises into action. Our Profit After Tax (PAT) reached LKR 1.61 Bn, marking a commendable 9% increase from the previous year. Moreover, we surpassed the significant milestone of LKR 10 Bn in GWP, representing a growth of 23%, which is almost twice the industry growth rate,” he said.

Sithumina Jayasundara, CEO of HNB General Insurance said: “Despite economic uncertainties and high inflation rates, the team showcased remarkable proficiency in risk assessment and customer management. Moreover, we made LKR 4.3 Bn in claims, marking a 12% increase from the previous year, reaffirming our commitment to honouring the trust instilled in us by our valued customers.”

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CEAT fortifies brand presence in Sri Lanka with three new premium Shop-In-Shop outlets

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The opening of the SIS outlet at U&H Wheel Service (Above) and at Paramount Tyre Traders

The CEAT brand’s retail presence in Sri Lanka has been further strengthened with the opening of three more premium outlets in the country – two in Colombo city and one in Hanwella, the company announced last week.

The three new CEAT Shop-In-Shop (SIS) outlets are designed to drive brand identity and enhance customer experience at leading dealer outlets. They are located at U&H Wheel Service and Paramount Tyre Traders, both at Prince of Wales Avenue, Colombo 14; and at Sakura Tyre Centre, Hanwella, a news release said.

“Part of a three-year distribution channel expansion strategy by the country’s highest-selling tyre brand, the CEAT Shop-in-Shop concept entails demarcating a dedicated area for CEAT branded tyres within existing multi-brand dealer premises. CEAT furnishes the interior, customer lobby and reception areas of this private space to augment customer comfort.

“Additionally, CEAT Kelani Holdings invests in interior branding, signage, and innovative product display racks to emphasise the tyre offerings available with the channel partner. Besides enhancing the visibility and positioning of the brand, this model is also known to increase the channel partners’ revenue,” the company said.

Elaborating on the company’s commitment to investing in premium retail concepts even in challenging times, CEAT Kelani Chief Operating Officer Mr Shamal Gunawardene said: “When the going gets tough, it is even more important to look for wins for all stakeholders. These SIS outlets add value for our customers, boost sales for our dealers and raise the brand’s presence in the market, benefiting the Company and all its stakeholders. They also ensure that the quality of the retail operation keeps pace with, and does justice to, the brand’s growth and the continuous improvement of the products.”

He said these premium retail outlets are also designed to bring special focus on providing all tyre-related services for passenger cars and SUVs, for which CEAT Kelani manufacturers a range of high-performance radial tyres in Sri Lanka.

Among the services common to CEAT SIS outlets are an extensive range of CEAT tyres at attractive discounts, specialized tyre care and technical expertise, computerized wheel alignment, nitrogen and air pumps for tyre inflation, dedicated customer lounge facilities and easy payment plans for credit card purchases. Some of the outlets also offer a wide range of alloy wheels and car batteries.

The manufacturer of nearly half of Sri Lanka’s pneumatic tyre requirements, CEAT Sri Lanka is considered one of the most successful India – Sri Lanka joint ventures. The joint venture’s cumulative investment in Sri Lanka to date exceeds Rs 8 billion. The company’s manufacturing operations in Sri Lanka encompass tyres in the radial (passenger cars, vans and SUVs), commercial (nylon and radial), motorcycle, three-wheeler and agricultural vehicle segments.

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ComBank stays on growth trajectory in 2023 with notable Q4 performance

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Commercial Bank Chairman Prof. Ananda Jayawardane (left) and Managing Director/CEO Mr Sanath Manatunge

Accelerated lending sees loan book grow by Rs 56.8 billion in three months

Deposits surge by Rs 109.4 billion in final quarter

12-month gross income up 21.82% to Rs 341.6 billion

The Commercial Bank of Ceylon Group lent Rs 56.816 billion in the fourth quarter of 2023 at a monthly average of Rs 18.939 billion to end the year with a loan book of Rs 1.296 trillion, continuing its trend of strong lending growth in support of economic revival.

Robust deposit growth of Rs 109.408 billion was also witnessed in the three months ending December 31, 2023 at a monthly average of Rs 36.469 billion, demonstrating the Group’s strong deposit franchise and focus on financial intermediation in volatile macroeconomic conditions. Deposits grew by 8.60% YoY to Rs 2.148 trillion at the end of the review period.

The Group, comprising of Sri Lanka’s biggest private sector bank, its subsidiaries and an associate, reported in a filing with the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) that total assets increased by Rs 156 billion or 6.24% YoY and by Rs 130 billion or 5.15% in the three months reviewed to reach Rs 2.656 trillion as at December 31, 2023.

Gross income improved by 21.82% YoY and by 33.44% in the final quarter to total Rs 341.566 billion for 2023, and interest income grew by 33.84% to Rs 297.646 billion, the Group said. With interest expenses increasing at a higher rate of 53.37% over the year to Rs 211.231 billion, net interest income grew by a marginal 2.07% to Rs 86.415 billion. This was however, a welcome reversal of the negative growth recorded at the end of the preceding quarter, and was made possible by net interest income of Rs 25.534 billion in the fourth quarter, an improvement of 16.85%.

“We have consistently reinforced our balance sheet strength throughout the year and reaffirmed our position as the leading private sector bank,” Commercial Bank Chairman Prof. Ananda Jayawardane commented. “Our solid performance stands as a testament to our resilience and enduring dedication to serving our customers and stakeholders with distinction. We look forward to building upon this foundation of success and charting new heights of prosperity in the future.”

Commercial Bank Managing Director/CEO Mr Sanath Manatunge noted that the Bank continued to demonstrate its unwavering strength and adaptability amidst a landscape of economic revival and reform. “As the country navigated through the aftermath of challenges flowing from the immediately preceding years, our focused strategy and commitment to stakeholder equity remained steadfast,” he said. “Embracing pivotal reforms and leveraging innovative approaches, we propelled forward, ensuring stability and sustainable value creation for all stakeholders. Our resilience and adaptability in the face of adversity is a testament to the dedication and resolve of the entire Commercial Bank team, whose unwavering commitment remains the cornerstone of our success.”

The Group posted an operating profit before taxes on financial services of Rs 38.885 billion for the full year, and Rs 10.193 billion for the fourth quarter, achieving improvements of 36.77% and 253.81% respectively, the latter due to the higher impairment provisions of the fourth quarter of the previous year.

The Group’s profit before income tax of Rs 33.927 billion for the 12 months recorded an improvement of 38.45%, in contrast to 13.56% at the end of the third quarter. With income tax for the 12 months increasing to Rs 12.027 billion, the Group reported a net profit of Rs 21.900 billion, a decline of 10.25% YoY.

Taken separately, Commercial Bank of Ceylon PLC reported a profit before tax of Rs 31.880 billion for the 12 months, an improvement of 41.07% while profit after tax for the year reduced by 10.92% to Rs 20.461 billion.

The largest private sector bank in Sri Lanka and the first Sri Lankan bank to be listed among the Top 1000 Banks of the World, Commercial Bank operates a strategically-located network of branches and over 950 automated machines island-wide, and is the largest lender to Sri Lanka’s SME sector. Commercial Bank has the widest international footprint among Sri Lankan Banks, with 20 outlets in Bangladesh, a Microfinance company in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, and a fully-fledged Tier I Bank with a majority stake in the Maldives.

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