“Despite economic headwinds, we remain optimistic about the immediate future”
Access Engineering PLC, the multi-billion rupee construction company which is by far the country’s biggest quoted engineering firm, recently concluded its annual general meeting covering the year ended Mar. 31, 2020, in which it suffered both a revenue and profit decline as a result of what its chairman, Mr. Sumal Perera, called “one of its most turbulent years” they had faced He attributed the downturn to external pressures including the Easter bomb, political uncertainty ahead of the presidential election and the Covid-related pandemic.
“Despite challenges stemming from the operating context, we remain optimistic about facing the ‘new normal’,” Perera said. “I am proud to say that (we) have faced these unprecedented challenges admirably and remain resilient as a leader in the industry due to our resourcefulness….”
Access remained profitable, both at group and company level, during the year though group revenue was down 25.56% to Rs. 24.03 billion and company revenue down 7.43% to Rs. 17.92 billion. The after tax profit too was down 54.47% and 1.78% for the group and company respectively with earnings of Rs. 979 million (group) and Rs. 1,93 billion (company) posted.
The previous year’s dividend level of 50 cents per share has been maintained on earnings per share of Rs. 0.98 (group) and Rs. 1.93 (company).
Perera said that every year since their listing, they had increased the net value of the company with the year under review being no different with Access’ net asset value running at 21.83 billion at company and Rs. 20.53 billion at group level.
Access which calls itself the most preferred partner in its industry had completed infrastructure projects of national importance and large scale projects both independently and in partnership with international companies. They have also taken steps to expand their core business while diversifying into automobiles and real estate.
He said they had taken tangible steps to build their future as a diversified vertically integrated corporate citizen and will follow strategies to become the most innovative construction company in its sector with a diversified customer proposition and portfolio.
“Thus, despite economic headwinds, we remain optimistic about the immediate future,” Perera declared.
Access MD Christopher Joshua and COO Rohana Fernando said in a joint statement that the future outlook for their business was secure with a full order book, They reported that the construction sector had from Jan. 1, 2020, returned to a preferential corporate tax rate of 14% from the previous 28%. This was expected to have a positive impact on their business.
Their overseas contracts for construction of substructures and related work for five bridges in Kenya, delayed because of Covid, is due to commence in the third quarter of this year, they said.
Mr. Sumal Perera with 25% of the company is its biggest shareholder. He is followed by Mr. J.C. Joshua (10.1%) and Mrs. RMN Joshua (7%), Mr. Shamal Perera (5.08%) and Mrs. DRS Malalasekera (4.5%) who are Mr. Sumal Perera’s children and Mr. RJS Gomez (a founder of the company along with Messrs. Sumal Perera and JC Joshua) who has been reducing his holding.
The directors of the company are Messrs. Sumal Perera (chairman), JC Joshua (MD), DAR Fernando (COO) SHS Mendis (executive), SD Munasinghe (executive), RJS Gomez (non-executive), Prof. Malik Ranasinghe, ND Gunaratne, SD Perera and DS Weerakkody who are non-executive independent directors.
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Unlimited music streaming platform in Sri Lanka
SLT-Mobitel, the nation’s ICT and Telecommunications Service Provider recently partnered with Spotify, to mark their launch in Sri Lanka. Spotify is a paid premium music streaming app which allows subscribers to listen to music to their hearts content. Both, SLT-Mobitel Post-Paid and Pre-Paid customers will now be able to enjoy Spotify by activating a monthly recurring subscription or one-time subscription plan and access unlimited music streaming and downloading facilities.
The subscription charges will get added to the user’s customary billing, where payment will be deducted in real time. Starting from the payment date, the user will be able to access Spotify and download their favourite songs, for the next 30 days. Users who sign up for their first monthly subscription will receive an additional one month, courtesy of Spotify. The one-month subscription plan is not applicable with one-time subscription plans. SLT-Mobitel data rates, depending on the user’s respective broadband charges, will apply.
Spotify also has some exciting features that will provide SLT-Mobitel customers with the opportunity to listen to ad-free music, access millions of uninterrupted music under one platform, play any song they like, anywhere they go, and also be able to enjoy their music offline.
SLT-Mobitel customers can select their preferred premium package under four categories; Individual, Duo, Family, Student. Each category has recurring and non-recurring plans. After one month of free streaming, the package will activate once the offer period terminates. While both, the Individual and Student premiums are limited to one account user, the Duo package offers two accounts and the Family premium is accessible through six accounts. To view Spotify plans, users can log on to https://spoti.fi/3aLWvce
Sri Lanka using ‘sovereign power’ over economy: CB Governor
by Sanath Nanayakkare
Anyone conversant with the elements of a political economy would know that Sri Lanka is using its ‘sovereign power’ to manage the different dynamics of the economy in a sustainable manner, Professor W. D Lakshman Governor of the Central Bank said on Wednesday.
“Some critics are saying that we adopt a so-called modern monetary theory. That’s not the case. In fact, Sri Lanka is using its sovereign power in a number of economic aspects to honour its external debt repayment commitments as well as to reduce its debt burden in the medium term as well as achieve resilient growth in the medium to long term, he said.
“We make policy decisions to boost our gross foreign reserves, meet our external debt servicing, to facilitate monetary expansion, to boost our GDP growth, to strengthen our current account balance and manage our domestic and external economic variables in a sustainable manner. This is not a modern monetary theory. This is an age-old tool used by central banks around the world when the circumstances demand it, he said.
“Certain trade-offs will be necessary when dealing with an economy which has a big fiscal gap to bridge. There are efforts to push Sri Lanka towards the IMF again which would in turn have influence on our policymaking. We have taken policy measures to stabilize the economy and we have adequate reserve levels to meet our debt repayments. Meanwhile, we are in negotiations with overseas central banks and multilateral agencies to further boost our reserve level and it would materialise within a matter of weeks,” he noted.
“One of the tools the Central Bank has introduced is in respect of repatriation of export proceeds into Sri Lanka and conversion of such proceeds into Sri Lankan rupees in order to strengthen the foreign exchange situation of the country,” he said.
The Governor made these remarks while delivering the keynote speech at a webinar organised by the Veemansa Initiative led by its Managing Director Luxman Siriwardene – the former Executive Director of Pathfinder Foundation.
The webinar revolved round the topic ‘External debt situation in Sri Lanka: Are we heading for a resolution or crisis?’
Professor Sirimal Abeyratne, Prof. Sumanasiri Liyanage, Dr. Nishan de Mel and Dr. Ravi Liyanage were the other speakers on the panel.
CSE on the rebound; indices close positive
By Hiran H.Senewiratne
CSE produced signs of a rebound yesterday with both indices closing positive, though turnover remained low. Central Bank Governor W.D Lakshman’s recent statement on managing foreign reserves gave some boost to the market yesterday, stock market analysts said.
The index experienced a zigzag movement within the early hours of trading; thereafter, it recorded a slight up-trend as it reached its intraday high of 7,439. Later, the market witnessed a down-trend at mid-day, followed by a sideways movement and closed at 7,372, gaining 43 points during the month of February, market sources said.
It is said the banking sector dominated turnover with a contribution of considerable parcel trades in Sampath Bank, Commercial Bank and HNB.
Further, the Commercial Bank’s impressive quarterly results during the recent turbulent period also built investor confidence. Commercial Bank was able to register a18 percent net interest income when other banks were reporting a decline. Its share price increased by Rs. 3 or 3.5 percent. On the previous day, its shares started trading at Rs. 85 and at the end of the day they moved up to Rs. 88. Due to the positive growth results, the bank announced a Rs. 4.40 dividend per share, plus a Rs. 2 script divergent for every share.
Further, Sampath Bank shares also appreciated in both crossing and retail. In crossings its shares appreciated by Rs. 1.At the end of the day they moved up to Rs. 154.50. In the retail market, its shares moved up by Rs. 2 or 1.3 percent. Previously, its shares fetched Rs. 154 and at the end of yesterday they moved up to Rs. 156.
Amid those developments, both indices moved upwards. The All Share Price Index went up by 104.48 points and S and P SL20 rose by 67.78 points. Turnover stood at Rs. 3 billion with four crossings. Those crossings were reported in Sampath Bank, where 3.9 million shares crossed for Rs. 602.2 million, its share price being Rs. 154.50, HNB 375,000 shares crossed for Rs. 39.4 million, its shares traded at Rs. 105, Pan Asia Power 9.5 million shares crossed for Rs. 33.2 million, its shares traded at Rs. 3.50 and Access Engineering 1.2 million shares crossed for Rs. 28.2 million; its shares traded at Rs. 24.
In the retail market top five companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, Expolanka Rs. 450 million (10 million shares traded), JKH Rs. 205 million (1.3 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs. 199 million (34.9 million shares traded), Sampath Bank Rs. 191 million (1.2 million shares traded) and Dipped Products Rs. 137.7 million (2.8 million shares traded). During the day 101 million share volumes changed hands in 18046 transactions.
During the day, Expolanka, the biggest contributor to the turnover, saw its share price appreciating by Rs. 6.20 or 15 percent. Its share price quoted on the previous day was Rs. 41 and at the end of trading yesterday it moved up to Rs. 47.
Sri Lanka’s rupee quoted wider at 193.50/195.50 levels to the US dollar in the spot next market on Thursday while bond yields remained unchanged, dealers said. The rupee last closed in the spot market at 194.50/195.00 to the dollar on Wednesday.