5th September 1999
What makes one a super person? Nayana Karunaratne of Image consultants gave the three ingredients that make one 'Super'.
"Self development, etiquette and good manners are necessary to be a super person," she told a Celltell Business Club meeting. She spoke on personality development and business etiquette.
"There is no accomplishment so easy to acquire as politeness and non more profitable. Etiquette is a set of rules we follow for behaviour and protocol," Mrs Karunaratne added. The word etiquette is evolved from the word ticket. A ticket was handed to people at French court ceremonies and its reverse contained instructions on what to do.
Mrs Karunaratne cited as a bad example of etiquette the behaviour of the Australian Prime Minister during the Queen's visit. "He touched her and this was in very bad taste," she said.
Being polite, breathing properly, being civil at all levels , shaking hands, greeting and introducing one self are important. It is also important to understand people's customs and culture.
Mrs Karunaratne said etiquette was destined to be a failure unless coupled with good manners. Consideration for others, common sense and graciousness are essential. She said that while etiquette varies from country to country manners do not. Good manners will help you stay ahead in a competitive business environment. "It will help you gain goodwill without which a career in business will not flourish," she said. Good manners are not considered a weakness in business. Strength and firmness can exist with tact sans meanness. Smile and extend courtsey to colleagues, subordinates, customers and suppliers. The importance of punctuality should not be underestimated.
Etiquette should be observed in one's relationships with superiors. This includes rising if necessary when a senior manager enters. You should stop what you are doing and give your attention to a senior person. Juniors may open doors for seniors. Do not voice strong or contradictory opinions to a senior in front of a third party. It is important to keep superiors informed at all times and to try and work with them. Make the most of a situation and be positive.
Etiquette should also be a consideration in your relationship with colleagues. Shoulder your fair share of the work and show gratitude and appreciation when colleagues shoulder your burden. Seek permission before using colleagues belongings and do not criticize colleagues. Observe etiquette in your relationship with subordinates.
Remember that instruction in the form of a request is always accepted. Give feedback and praise and give criticism privately. Top management should treat managers with sufficient regard so that they are able to maintain respect from their subordinates. Give clear and accurate instructions. Avoid intimate relationships with subordinates. Superiors should acknowledge and appreciate good work done by subordinates.
Business meetings are costly in terms of time and money and appropriate manners should be observed during meetings. Your dress should be conservative not casual. It is important to arrive early for meetings.
At informal meetings you may choose your own seat but at formal meetings wait for seniors to take their seats. Greet people already in the room. Preparation is a key factor, so come prepared!
Do not just ask any question or suggest any thing. Improper conduct includes poor attention, private conversations, showing boredom or irritation, violent disagreements and off colour jokes. Emotional outbursts are also inappropriate as are questions that embarrass others. Thank people after a meeting before leaving..
Introductions are another sphere in which etiquette should be observed. The less important person should be introduced to the more important person. Rank, sex and age are criteria in deciding importance.
Men should always stand up when being introduced even to another man. Women underage should stand when being introduced to older people while older women should stand when introduced to people much older or ranking higher.
When shaking hands you should do so with a firm clasp while squaring your shoulders. Meeting the other person's eye in full greeting is also important.
Mrs Karunaratne said the telephone which is the most valued investment in a business should be used with etiquette. Speak clearly as your tone and voice is your body language in this instance.
Use pleasant words as your positive attitude and smile will be communicated through your words. The telephone should be picked within three rings. Your introduction should be a greeting. Remember to use the callers name and title. Stay calm and keep cool and return all your calls.
The John Keells Group have broken ground once again with a technical collaboration with Indian business giants TATA Group, to open the prestigious TULEC Qualification - Tata Unisys Ltd. Education Services, from TATA Infotech Ltd. of India. The John Keells Institute of Information Technology is due to open in mid September a company release said.
According to Driector Mr. Sudharashan Ahangama the Institute would provide a variety of courses including career courses, professional courses, computer courses for beginners, and corporate training. TULEC qualified personnel are currently employed globally, including in organisations such as Microsoft, Citibank, Standard Chartered, Tulip Software, Hewlett Packard etc,, and is internationally recognised and sought after qualification, the release added.
Daewoo Chairman Kim Woo Choong has been stripped of his powers, reports ASIAWEEK in its intelligence column this week.
According to a highly-placed source in the Korean Financial Supervisory Commission, government-controlled creditor banks took away Chairman Kim's powers. Although the tycoon will remain as Chairman of Daewoo Corp. and Daewoo Motor, he will not be allowed to call meetings, assign executives or write cheques. Kim was informed of the decision on the night of August 30, an intelligence release said.
A public announcement is unlikely, at least for some time, reports ASIAWEEK, as the government wants Kim to maintain 'face' so that he can continue negotiations with foreign partners and governments on certain complex business matters.
The Colombo Consumers' Price Index (CCPI) for August of 2356.2 shows a decrease of 3.8 index points or 0.2 percent from the July index of 2360.0. This is a decrease of Rs.7.63 in the Expenditure Value of "Market basket" when compared to July, 1999.
The decrease in the CCPI for August is mainly due to decrease in price of rice, sugar, garlic, red onions, coconut oil, pork and some varieties of fresh fish, a Central Bank release says.
These price decreases in food items can be mainly attributed to more supply of domestic consumer goods and imported goods to the main markets in Colombo the release adds.
However, prices of dried chillies, cumin seed, limes, beef, some varieties of fresh fish and dried fish and some varieties of vegetables, etc., increased during this month.
Annual inflation rate on the basis of 12 months moving average decreased to 5.0 percent in August, from 5.2 percent in July.
The newest organization of Old Royalists who are bankers, was launched under the name Royal Bankers Club at Hotel Taj Samudra last week.
This event was witnessed by over 300 bankers from all walks of life who travelled the length and the breath of the country to gather in fellowship and camaraderie. It is significant to note that Royal has produced the Governor of the Central Bank, six chairman of banks and other bankers exceeding 500 in number.
The principal of Royal College Mr. H. L. B. Gomes was the chief guest and Governor, Central Bank, Mr. A. S. Jayawardena was the guest of honour. During his address Mr. Jayawardena recollected his days at Royal and said that the greatest gift he received from Royal was to learn how to accept success with humility. Mr. Nimal Dias Jayasinha, Secretary of the Royal College Union also addressed the gathering, stressing the need to support the premier educational institution in the country, where the children of the elitist and some of the poorest in the country are learning together to uphold the rich traditions of the college.
The Royal Bankers Club will be fully affiliated to the Royal College Union through the ORGACO. It has among its goals, bringing together past students of Royal College who are engaged in banking, promoting savings, thrift and modern banking practices among present students of Royal College and entire student population at large, providing guidance for present students to seek careers in banking etc.
Consequent to the adoption of the constitution, the following patrons and office bearers were elected:
Mr. A. S. Jayawardena - Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka
President Mr. Mahendra Amarasuriya - Commercial Bank of Ceylon Ltd.
Mr. Hiran Perera - Hatton National Bank Ltd.
All Royalist Bankers who are members of the Royal College Union are eligible to become members of the Club. The organizers express their regrets for not being able to reach out to all the potential members due to exigencies of time and invite anyone who wishes to join to inquire from one of the following.
Mr. Kamal Abeysinghe at Sampath Bank (074-712022), Mr. Suren Fernando at Muslim Commercial Bank (44-8765) or Mr. Hiran Perera at Hatton National Bank (686129).
A contract for the construction of a 132 KV grid substation at Vavuniya was signed between the Ceylon Electricity Board and ABB Kraft of Norway last week.
The construction of this grid substation is undertaken on a priority basis in view of the higher demand growth expected in the Vanni district along with the restoration and expansion of civil administration in the area.
The project is expected to cost about SLR 250 million and 82% of the project cost is received as NORAD aid. About 10% of the aid will be an outright grant and the balance, a loan free of any interest, a media release said.
The Ceylon Electricity Board will provide 18% of the project cost from its internal cash generation. Generally, CEB contributes 35% of the project cost from its internal cash generation for foreign funded projects. Therefore, the arrangement in this project is to the particular advantage of CEB. Besides this, Norwegian funding for this project was most welcome because other international lending agencies were reluctant to finance this project due to the location of the substation.
This is the third time NORAD has provided assistance to the electricity sector in recent times. During the past couple of years NORAD has financed the 132 KV transmission line and grid substation project at Ampara and a large 220 KV grid substation project at Anuradhapura. These two projects also were constructed by ABB Kraft of Norway with Lanka Transformers Ltd. as their local counterpart. Incidentally Lanka Transformers Limited is a joint venture company where ABB Kraft holds 30% of the equity capital.
ABB Kraft has steadily increased the share of work performed by Lanka Transformers Limited. In the Vavuniya grid substation project, Lanka Transformers Limited will fabricate, galvanise and supply all steel structural components for the project. ABB Kraft has provided Lanka Transformers technology for the manufacture of electricity distribution transformers to international standards. ABB Kraft is now in the process of effecting similar transfer of technology in the field of design and construction of transmission lines and grid substations, to Lanka Transformers Ltd. their release added.
ANZ Grindlays Bank has taken the innovative step of offering ANZ shares to the employees of the Bank. This is part of the worldwide and annual " ANZ Employee Share Acquisition Plan" of the Group to increase employee motivation and create a stronger link between increasing shareholder value and employee reward by providing the employees with the opportunity to participate in the growth of the bank, a bank release said.
All full-time and part-time employees who already have one year's service with the bank as at November 4th, 1998 and who are residents of Sri Lanka or expatriate officers whose home location is Sri Lanka will qualify.
The programme will be run on a similar basis each year.
Under the scheme, shares up to a predetermined value will be given to each employee at no cost. The number of shares awarded will vary as it will be based on the bank's performance and share value. This year, the value of shares can be up to value of AUD 1,000.
Employees will also be able to receive dividends and any benefits under a rights issue. The shares will be held by a trustee on behalf of the employees for a period of three years.
The shares will be issued after the Bank has dealt with the final formalities.
Dr. Uditha Liyanage was appointed Chairman of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. In his address, at the AGM of the Sri Lanka branch of CIM (UK) Dr. Liyanage said the strategic intent of the Branch in the year 1999/2000 was "to aid the coaching, training and development of students and members of the CIM who will manage and lead their organizations in the new millennium".
Coaching of students would entail the provision of marketing knowledge to students primarily through the number of tuition centres in the country. Training entails the sharpening of job specific skills of the Institute's members. Development is about self -development and confidence building.
Dr. Liyanage described, in detail, the number of programmes that have been planned with respect to each of the areas of coaching, training and development. He expects the branch to grow, both in terms of its membership and stature in the coming year of operations and serve its two groups - students and members of CIM (U.K) better and faster.
Dr. Liyanage who is the first and only CIM member in Sri Lanka to obtain a Ph. D and one of the few to hold a Doctorate in Marketing in the region said that more than ever before our country needs competent, professional marketing personnel to thrust Sri Lankan organizations into the next millennium. Increasing market competitiveness demands organizations to become customer-focused and manage their operations in a way that will create and enhance value to customers, competitively.
From November, Emirates will offer a new service between Dubai and Stockholm, Sweden - its first destination in Scandinavia - through a recently concluded codeshare agreement with SriLankan Airlines.
The agreement allows Emirates to codeshare Sri Lankan's new, thrice weekly services between Dubai and Stockholm and will apply for both passenger and cargo services, an airline release said.
SriLankan Airlines will commence operations between Colombo and Stockholm via Dubai from November 12 with twice weekly flights every Tuesday and Friday, with a third weekly flight every Sunday from December 5.
The flights will bear both airlines' codes, being EK6151 and UL531 from Dubai to Stockholm and EK6152 and UL 532 from Stockholm to Dubai.
From Dubai, EK6151/UL531 will depart at 0440 and arrive in Stockholm at 0930.
From Stockholm, EK6152/UL532 will depart at 1050 to return to Dubai at 2045, all times local.
Initially, SriLankan will deploy the Airbus A340 on the Dubai/Stockholm route. From December 5, SriLankan will switch to the brand-new Airbus A330-200 aircraft on the route, which will be configured in two classes of Business and Economy seating a total of 281 passengers, with cargo capacity of 15 tonnes.
Ceylon Biscuits Ltd. recently signed an agreement to acquire an enterprise server, essential for its global expansion.
The company hopes to open a manufacturing and marketing plant in India and a new manufacturing plant in the local factory. According to Ceylon Biscuits IT Manager Anura Jayathilake, IT resources capable of delivering vital information reliably, on time and within budget was very essential to the company.
The IBM RS/6000 Enterprise Server Model S70, a 64 - bit SMP system will be supplied by Keells Business System Ltd. (KBSL), the company release said.
The company release said that Ceylon Biscuits chose this server for its performance, scalability and the reliability.
An agreement on trade, economic and technical co-operation between Sri Lanka and Ukraine was signed in Kiev recently.
The Sri Lankan Ambassador to the Russian Federation, Mr. N. Sikkander and Valentyn M. Shevalov, First Deputy Minister of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and Trade signed on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka and the Republic of Ukraine respectively.
The agreement provides for both countries the Most Favoured Nation status (MFN) to enjoy preferential treatment on customs duties. Sri Lankan businessmen, as well as Ukrainian importers would be benefited immensely, since import duties will be reduced by 50% of the general duties.
The first scholarship awards ceremony of he ICASL Educational Trust was held on September 1, at the Hotel Lanka Oberoi.
The ICASL Educational Trust was established by the late Mr.M.H.G.A. Brito Mutunayagam in July 1997. The Rs ten million Trust was set-up for the benefit of Registered Students and Members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka.
The trustees of the ICASL Educaational Trust are M.N.G.C. Perera,N.R. Gajendran, and D.S.W.Andradi.
Scholarship awards winners 1999 : K.Girisanthan, Ms.S.M.Kannangara, M.M.S.K.Karunarathna, H.I.K.Perera, H.N.S.K.Perera, M.Rajadurai, S.Ravi Kumar, S.Ketheesan, M.Suggeswaran and R.P.A.Wijayakumara
The National Savings Bank's profit after tax grew by 164 per cent to Rs 631 mn in 1998. Profit after tax was Rs 239 mn in 1997. "Profit growth was achieved despite limitations placed on investments in high yielding instruments due to restrictions placed by the National Savings Bank Act," Chairman, National Savings Bank, Cyril Herath told stakeholders in his annual report. He said fulfilling social obligations and maintaining market share were among other considerations in offering competitive interest rates.
"However profits recorded were the highest in the bank's 27 years of existence," General manager, National Savings Bank, N. B. S. B. Balalle said. He said the bank had invested in high yielding securities during the past five years and in a low interest rate scenario the bank continued to obtain a higher yield.
The banks operational income increased by 2.5 per cent to Rs 11 bn. Total deposits increased by 8.8 per cent to Rs 84 bn in 1998. "The low interest rate regime resulted in a high proportion of matured term deposits moving out of the banking system to finance companies and commercial bank debentures," Mr. Herath said. Rupee deposits in the banking sector as a whole were 7.6 per cent.
NSB's market share grew by .3 per cent to 27.1 per cent in 1998. "The bank is pursuing a strategy of market maintenance in a fiercely competitive environment," Mr Balalle said, explaining the minute increase.
The bank transferred Rs 300 mn to an interest equalisation reserve to enable it to pay marginally higher rates of interest in the event of interest rates declining in the future. The market value of unit trusts the bank holds declined by Rs 17.8 mn. The bank's return on equity was 45 per cent.
During the year the bank computerised ten branches and opened a new branch in Nittambuwa. It also introduced two new products Hapan and Punchi Hapan.
Amendments to the NSB Act will enable the bank to undertake new activities such as pawn broking, personal banking, lotteries and investing in equities in future. "The bank will focus on pawn broking, personal lending and expanding its housing loan portfolio during the next year," Mr. Balalle told The Sunday Times Business.
Indian Register of Shipping (IRS) recently completed one year of operation in Sri Lanka.
IRS,formed primarily to serve as a nucleus cell for Research and Development of shipping, shipbuilding and allied industries, was founded in March 1975, as an autonomous body having no profit motive with all surplus funds being utilized for Research and Development.
IRS has formed a Sri Lanka Committee to serve as forum for receiving feedback, from the Sri Lankan Marine and Industrial community for identifying any need for enhancement of service provided by it and to consider the possible adaptation of the technical requirements and procedures of IRS to align with the national practice or obligations.
A delegation from IRS Head Office consisting of Capt. J.C Anand, Chairman K. Madhok, Chief Executive and D.G. Saragdhar, Chief Surveyor, were recently in Colombo to meet local dignitaries and make a presentation at the annual meeting of the Sri Lanka Committee of IRS.
The committee meeting under the Chairmanship of Sundra Jayawardhana, Chairman, Ceylon Shipping Corporation and Vice Chairman Dr. S.M.B. Obeysekera, Managing Director, Colombo Dockyard Limited, was held on July 14 at the Regency Room, Taj Samudra Hotel, Colombo.
The delegation from IRS made presentations on the impressive gains made by IRS and its Quality Systems Certification division, Indian Register Quality Systems (IRQS) during the last year. On the R&D Front, IRS has invested heavily in research on wave motion analysis and structural analysis using advanced computing methods while also moving ahead with the application of Formal Safety Assessment to the rule making process.
In the field of Quality System Certification, IRQS was the first organization in Asia to be accredited by the Internationally renowned Dutch Accreditation Council, Raad voor Accreditatie, to carry out audits and issue ISO 9000 series certificates to various industries in 1993. Since then, IRQS has certified over 350 companies and has also been accredited to carry out audits and issue certificates to QS 9000 and the ISO 14000 series of Environmental Quality Management standards.
According to Neville Daruvala, Senior Surveyor in charge of the Colombo office and himself a qualified lead auditor, the first year in Colombo has been a satisfying and rewarding one. IRS has been well accepted by the Sri Lankan maritime and industrial community and several owners have entrusted their vessels to IRS class. A modest start has also been made in the Quality Systems Certification department by certification of some Sri Lankan companies to the ISO 9000 series of standards.
The IRS delegation expressed their happiness with the co- operation and encouragement given by the Sri Lankan Government, Ship Owners and Builders, Agents, Underwriters and Industrial community and looked forward to a close association with them.
The IRS is represented in Sri Lanka by Maritime Agencies Limited which is a subsidiary of Hayleys Group.
Oceaneeds (Pvt) Ltd. was awarded the ISO 9002 certification recently. They have become the first company in Sri Lanka to achieve it in the ship supply industry among over 60 registered members of Sri Lanka Ship Suppliers Association in Sri Lanka, says a news release.
Oceaneeds (Pvt) Ltd., is a member of the Ceyline Group. They received the ISO 9002 certification from Det Norske Veritas (DNV), the Norwegian certification body accredited by RVA of Netherlands.
It is the fourth company in the Ceyline Group to be awarded the ISO 9002 certification the other three companies being Ceyline Shipping Ltd., Colombo International Nautical & Engineering College, Marine Survey & Technology Services (Pvt.) Ltd.
Oceaneeds was established in 1993 and have reached the present status as one of the leading ship supplying firms in the country, expanding each year due to the company's team effort and by providing customer satisfaction through professionalism and dedication.
Oceaneeds (Pvt.) Ltd. is a member of the International Ship Suppliers Association (ISSA) and is also a member of the Sri Lanka Ship Suppliers Association (SLSSA). They have in their team professionally qualified and experienced personnel to provide the best and dedicated services at all times.
The Director/General Manager of the company Mahinda Bandara was elected as the chairman of the Ship Suppliers Association in Sri Lanka for the year 96/97. As the Chairman of SLSSA, he represented Sri Lanka at the 41st ISSA convention & trade exhibition, which was held at Harrogate in London in 1996.
Oceaneeds extend their services to supply of bonded stores, ship crew repatriations, ship's spares clearing & transferring, removal of garbage & sludge and other shipping related services too.
The quality consultancy services for Oceaneeds (Pvt) Ltd were provided by CINEC - Management System Development (Pvt.) Ltd;, a newly established quality and management consultancy company under Ceyline Group.
A 73-year-old woman died and some 13 people remained in hospital after the dramatic rescue of 1,300 people from a blaze onboard the Norwegian passenger ferry Princess Ragnhild.
The 1981-built ferry owned by Norwegian operator Color Line, was on her way from Kiel to Oslo in calm weather when fire broke out in her engineroom.
Ten helicopters from Sweden, Norway and Denmark rushed to the aid of the 1,167 passengers and 172 crew onboard.
They were aided by up to 20 vessels, including Stena Line's Danica, which went alongside the Norwegian flagged vessel to speed up the evacuation.
The fire was extinguished and the situation was under control within three hours of the start of the blaze. Color Line said the cause of the fire was unknown. Access to the engineroom became possible a day later,
The woman passenger who died suffered heart problems during the rescue, and died in hospital some eight hours later. None of the passengers taken to hospital were in a serious condition.
"The crew deserve all possible praise. They managed to keep people calm.
"Not even the children were crying," said passenger Unni Serensen. The speed of the rescue, aided by the calm conditions, contrasts with the reported confusion following the fire on board cruise ship Sun Vista in May.
The Princess Ragnhild is insured for NKr522m or approximately $.66m, with up to half of the direct hull and machinery cover placed in the London market.
Although the fire on board the ship will not result in a total loss of this value, London market sources estimated that a partial loss could reach as much as $6m.
Some 40% of the Prinsess Ragnhild's direct hull and, machinery cover is placed in the London market by broker Jardine Lloyd Thompson.
It is understood that the leader of this share of the cover is the Simon Spinney syndicate at Lloyd's. However this could not be immediately confirmed.
Some 30% of the cover is held by Norway's Gjensidige Marine & Energy Insurance, the leader of the slip.
Hutchison Port Holdings of Hong Kong and Singapore's PSA Corp have opted out of the race to set up a container transhipment terminal at Vallarpadam island off Cochin, South India.
Cochin Port Trust called for bids after 14 companies responded to a global advertisement calling for expression of interest in the project.
Six were short-listed to submit bids including P&O Australia, ABG Industries, International Seaports and Dutch India Consortium.
The project comprises two parts: the expansion of the Rajiv Gandhi Container Terminal (RGCT) and the establishment of container transhipment terminal at Vallarpadam. Unions at Cochin have protested against the move to privatize RGCT, but do not oppose Vallarpadam. (Fair Play)
Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNP) near Mumbai is gearing up to become a transhipment hub, says port chairman M.P. Pinto.
He told a recent news conference that the port is planning to augment its facilities to attract trade currently transhipped through Singapore or Colombo.
At present, he said, about 80 percent of container traffic passing through Colombo either originates from or is bound for India.
Nepal, with container traffic alone estimated at 40,000 - 45,000 TEU per year, has expressed interest in using JNP instead of Calcutta, Pinto added, while JNP sources also reveal that the port is setting its sights on container traffic to and from Karachi.
This business is currently being shipped over Dubai but JNP officials are trying to convince mainline operators to call at their port and use feeder ships to transport containers to Karachi.
If this materializes, JNP's traffic would increase by about 25,000 TEU per month.
JNP has already lined up investments worth Rs 26Bn ($605M) for capacity additions.
These include bids for a 15M tonne marine chemical terminal, which are being studied, and for which the project details should be finalized in November.
In addition, a contract has been awarded to Bharat Petroleum Corp. to build a Rs 2 Bn liquid cargo terminal, which is due for completion by the end of the next financial year, and two container berths are already under construction by P&O at a cost of Rs 7Bn.
The port's approach channel is also being deepened to 14m, while Rs 350 M is being spent on setting up shallow berths for coastal vessels.
A major row has broken out in Bangladesh surrounding various proposals to equip the country with modern container handling facilities.
In 1998, the Bangladeshi government appeared to award Stevedoring Services of America (SSA) a 99-year concession to build a new container terminal at Patenga, near Chittagong, linked to a further new terminal to be built just outside Dhaka, at Pangaon, by an integrated barge service.
The total cost of this project was US$ 438 m and was to be implemented as part of a BOO contract, with a clause allowing the original concession to be renewed for a further 99 years at the end of its initial expire.
However despite high profile support from the business community, neither the port workers nor the mayor of Chittagong would support the scheme, which the government proved helpless to implement.
It has recently been claimed that a prior proposal presented to the Ministry of Shipping by the UK-based consortium Port Venture Limited (PVL) in 1997 (see World Cargo News, August 1997), had not been brought to the attention of the then Deputy Minister for Shipping, Saber Hossain Chowdhury, who claims never to have seen it!
Instead, it is now claimed that corrupt officials within the Ministry somehow concealed the proposal, which had been presented by senior officials within the Ministry somehow concealed the proposal, which had been presented by senior officials from the British Department of Trade & Industry and from the British High Commission in Dhaka.
PVL carried out an extensive feasibility study before presenting its project to the Ministry, something which it is claimed has not been done by SSA.
In fact, PVL wants to build an international container terminal at the mouth of the river Karnaphuli in return for a 25-year operating concession as either a BOO or BOOT contract.
The total cost of the scheme is US$290 m and includes considerable road and rail infrastructure upgrading in Chittagong.
A director of PVL, Peter Finch, has revealed that an official complaint has been made to the Parliamentary Standing Committee reporting to the Ministry of Shipping, in addition to other government bodies.
The Committee is currently awaiting a detailed report from within the Ministry explaining why the PVL proposal was never considered.
In the meantime, PVL has not been idle. In March, it became public that PVL has put forward plans to build the Patenga terminal as a joint venture with Chittagong Port Authority (CPA).
Recently, the situation has become even more complicated, with PSA Corporation throwing its hat into the ring, too.
(World cargo News.)
Asked for projections on the hotel sector, an analyst in a top brokerage told the Sunday Times Business, "Only one person can answer that." AND THAT PERSON IS PRABHAKARAN. While there is a huge question mark hanging over the future and growth of the tourism industry despite some insipid attempts to revive it, tourism is pretty much in the hands of the man from Jaffna, is what the industry and industry watchers believe. Recently when Uma Kumar Sharma an international businessman of Indian origin bought the Hotel Ceylon Intercontinental (93% of the shareholding at Rs. 413 million) the hotel industry was abuzz with speculation. Why was the man buying a white elephant? Is he trying to buy the Asian Hotel Group which owns Intercontinental and the better properties of Trans Asia and the Lanka Oberoi. The industry was not really convinced that Sharma was buying the Intercontinental, one of the best hotel properties and hoping to expand and refurbish with a long term view.... The Sunday Times Business spoke to Sharma about his reasons for buying the hotel and his plans for his favourite property....
Interview by the Business Desk
Intercontinental International is owned by the London based Bass Group. They are in the process of merging the Crown Plaza, Intercontinental Hotels and the Holiday Inn chain to make it 2,200 destinations under one roof.
STB: What was the attraction? You pocketed out Rs. 413 mn?
Sharma: I have made this investment as a legacy for my children. I bought this hotel for this purpose. Once they grow up, they can identify themselves as Sri Lankans. The other thing is that they can be proud that their father has worked hard for them. I have spent lavishly so that this property should remain in the family.
Secondly, I have been coming to Sri Lanka since 1972. So I have seen Sri Lanka in its best times, how it was coming up and at one stage how it went bad with terrorist activities since 1983.
I have lived at the Intercontinental for about 4 1/2 years while working for various companies abroad. I always felt a pity towards the hotel. I became friends with Lal Liyanage.I visited him whenever I came to Sri lanka.
I always felt sorry for him. The owners were not giving him money. But somehow, he was running about polishing, keeping things going. If not for him and the location I would not have bought it.
The tourist business has to remain in Sri Lanka for tomorrow. I have not done this business as a short term plan. It is a medium and long-term investment..
I want to change it to a six star hotel in three years time. The hotel rates will be more expensive than the Hilton Hotel.
I am confident of turning it around to one of the best in town.
STB: There is a lot of market speculation as to how the funding has been done?
Sharma: Well, all the money that has come in has been from my personal funding through the SIERRA account. The money came in dollars from my personal funds. I am a very wealthy man.
STB: There are market rumours that you are a front for a German fund?
Sharma: There is no fund involved, it's all my personal funds.
STB: Are you going to buy Trans Asia and Lanka Oberoi also?
Sharma: That depends on my broker!! To be truthful, I am not involved in it at the moment. I have already gone into one, I do it a step at a time - not for the moment though.
STB: What are your plans to market the hotel?
Sharma: I am lobbying my contacts abroad to market the hotel. At the moment the travel advisories, have a red line under Sri Lanka. I have told my contacts that I have lived in places like Japan and I am living in Sri Lanka. I have not been killed yet so nothing to worry. I have emphasised that in this terrorist activities, very few foreigners got involved. I am talking to the Koreans and the Japanese.
The Japanese have confirmed they are coming next season. At the moment it's a bit slow. I remember those days when I came for business, there was no time to change a room and give it to the new person. There was a shortage of good hotel rooms in Colombo.
STB: Have you commenced refurbishing the property?
Sharma: I have already started changing the colours, demolishing things, refurbishing things. The total refurbishment has not started because we are in the midst of the tourist season. But we will start next April. We are estimating the cost to be to the tune of Rs. 200 million or so.
We want to make the present property into an A-class hotel. To make a sixth star level, we have phase three, which we are planning at the moment.
Its still on the drawing level. We are trying to add another 100 rooms with five large penthouse apartments. Plus, six to seven more restaurants. With that phase, it will be an exclusive property.
The present building section would be for lesser spending people. The new wing will purely be for business people. They will have large room facilities with fax, attached modem, so that they don't have to go to the business centre. Whatever Japan has to offer. My idea is that people should be picked up from the airport - it should be built into the package not to sign vouchers for Rs. 1000 for this and that.
STB: How have you phased out the refurbishment programme?
Sharma: Phase one, is targeted to finish in time for New Year's eve. Phase two, is for the inside area and one or two restaurants. That will start in April next year, once we have all the funds arranged. The first and second phases are refurbishments.
STB: Where will the new wing come up?
Sharma: It will come up adjoining the hotel in the car park area towards the Central Bank building. We will curve in towards the existing hotel. The Central Bank is negotiating with us to put their car park under our property, which we are negotiating. We can't do piling of concrete if we have a two storey underground car park for Central Bank. So, we are negotiating things.
The new extension will have the maximum of seven to eight floors. The present building has nine floors and we will not go higher than that.
STB: Who will fund your expansion programmes? Is it all from private funds?
Sharma: I have been talking to the Sri Lankan banks. They have flatly refused to give any money. I feel they are using the same yard-stick for everyone. By investing US$ 30 mn, borrowing Rs. 200 mn is nothing. I have offered them my building in return for Rs. 500 mn, but they have refused.
I will be raising my funds overseas, it's slightly cheaper in dollars.
STB: Are you paying a higher premium for a terrorist cover since you are located in a high risk area?
Sharma: Yes. Unfortunately, only three or four companies in London do terrorist cover in Sri Lanka. They have used one yardstick, no one knows whether its higher or lower. No company is bringing the terrorist cover here, they are depending on the underwriters for that kind of value.
We have a situation here where we have to pay for one year. I have asked for a quotation from Japanese Fire Insurance company to compare and tell me. If it's not a risk area what should the cover be like?
Now we are paying to the tune of Rs. 4 mn to 5 mn a year for the cover. The present evaluation of the property is around US$ 27 mn to 30 mn.
STB: Market perception is that Intercontinental Hotel is a high risk property.
Sharma: My philosophy is that whatever people do, I do the opposite. I have been fortunate to survive so far. As people didn't want it, I wanted it. I am very positive it will do better, not tomorrow but in a few years time. I can wait and see it through. Once the product is right, people will come. Despite two bomb blasts and a barricade, people are still coming in.
We are putting something together for New Year's eve, there will be a discotheque in the garden all being prepared for it. We have sold part of the tickets - at least those people will get to witness what we have done over the few months.
STB: Would you like to comment on the room rate war?
Sharma: Undercutting is there. But step by step I want to look into this also. There is no shortage of rooms like in India. Today the domestic business between both countries is also great.
I am thinking of first making the product good. The minute they walk in, they should feel like home. My feeling is to try around US$ 150 - 200 once the whole place is refurbished.
STB: How much of Intercontinental do you hold?
Sharma: We have 93% shares at the moment, a little bit more to go.
STB: Will the company remain quoted on the stock exchange?
Sharma: That we will have to wait and see. We are going to see the pros and cons once we have completed the mandatory offer.
My belief is that in the third phase, if we have to raise money from the public again, its costly to get a listing on the stock exchange. There are various documentation, accounts to be shown, formalities involved etc prior to getting a listing. I am thinking after one or two years, when we reap profits, sell the shares at a premium and make it attractive.
STB: What is Multivision's background?
Sharma: Once before this, we had a company called Ceyvision, which dealt with sending tuna to Japan. This stopped due to problems with the Navy in Trincomalee. The company was closed subsequently. Multivision was started to invest in new areas. One was a hospital project, Chelsea Hospitals, in Nugegoda, with Dr. Sarath Paranavithana. We are trying to combine a normal hospital down with a specialty in heart area. This project is on, we are looking for substantial land. This hotel is our second investment.
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