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Rs 600 mn expansion to Liberty Plaza

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Colombo Land and Development Company PLC which completed Sri Lanka’s first ever international standard shopping mall Liberty Plaza in 1982 laid foundation on February 14, for an Rs 600 million expansion to the shopping mall under the patronage of Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, Minister of Investment Promotions.

The minister also declared opened the new specialty multi cuisine restaurant at Liberty Plaza named “Seasons” which will be a first restaurant of its kind, all under one roof serving cuisines like North/South Indian, Sri Lankan, Western and Oriental.

UDA Chairman Nimal Perera commending the efforts of the Management of Colombo Land said it has proven to be the most dynamic associate company of the UDA.

Currently Colombo Land was performing beyond expectations of the UDA proving that a true private/public partnership can deliver an effective solution to solve urban development issues in and upwardly mobile society.

Nimal Perera said that when the children were performing it is the father who takes pride in the achievements. Hence UDA is extremely happy and proud of the strategic and proactive approach CLDC was taking in those efforts.

CLDC was set up in early 80s as public private partnership between a Singaporean property development company, Clarissa private limited and UDA for the purpose of undertaking infrastructure development projects. After completing Liberty Plaza in 1982 it also built the peoples park shopping complex in Pettah. Being a public listed company, 73% CLDC shares were currently held by Sri Lankan institutes and individuals. UDA was one of the largest institutional shareholders with 17.5%.

While the Liberty Plaza expansion and the adjacent new Liberty Arcade shopping mall will create more retail space along the Duplication Road, the next major project of the CLDC will be the Liberty Square in Pettah.

The UDA Chairman said that this joint project of UDA and CLDC will help modernization of Pettah and will result in a major transformation of the City’s outlook.

He said there were several infrastructure development projects that have been undertaken by CLDC. These developments were adding great value to the Urban Development efforts of UDA spearheaded by Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the Secretary of Defense.

Ng Eng Ghee brought in a substantial foreign investment to the country to successfully complete the first ever international standards shopping mall in Liberty Plaza.

CLDC being a partner company of UDA is confident that it will able to meet all the set targets and add capacity to the city to become an efficient partner to make the Government's vision of making Sri Lanka the Wonder of Asia.

This event was also graced by Namal Rajapaksa MP, Nimal Perera, Chairman UDA and Nihal Fernando, Director General UDA.

‘Using ACL technology catalyst for FDI’

The Government during its last Budget Speech announced a very ambitious Economic Road Map which was serious about attracting long term investors, who were supposed to bring capacity building, element of technology transfers and long term capital needs, said Methsiri Wijeygoonewardena, Chairman – Seatol Technologies (Pvt)Ltd, in his welcome speech made at ceremony held to announce the launching of the landmark partnership with ACL Services Ltd Canada.

He said, “to attract good FDI's you need to really work on economic good governance, good systems, the need for good regulatory framework and possibly rule of law etc. A serious long term investor, does look at good governance, efficient systems, transparent systems and a good regulatory frame work. ACL could make a positive contributions in this development process.”

He said Seatol has been in business from 2005 focusing mainly in IT solutions project development & promotions among some of the key business sectors. Seatol has developed specialise IT solutions products for petroleum retail distribution sector popularly known among retail fuel filling stations users, as SEAFISS beside, Seatol diversified its operations to develop a mobile based technological product named SEATO TRAK to oversee the efficient use of field promotional personnel.

After years of highly competitive IT products marketing, Seatol was honoured to be the Channel Partner in Sri Lanka with ACL Services Ltd Canada. He said they had a number of clients and users in Sri Lanka which include 15 banks, two insurance companies, seven listed companies and in the Government sector, the Central Bank and the Inland Revenue Department.

“Once you become a licensed user in interactive environment, one will learn how to integrate ACL commands and expressions to accomplish complex data analytic tasks. Our continuous auditing framework enable us to meet management and stake holders' increasing expectations of comprehensive assurance spanning, compliance, good governance, IT control effectiveness, process, operations and fraud preventions portfolio,” Wijeygoonewardena added.

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Architect 2013 opens in grandeur

The Inauguration Ceremony of the 31st Annual Sessions of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects (SLIA), “Architect 2013” commenced at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH) yesterday.

The grand opening of the five day session that sees multifaceted events was graced by several ministers and government officials.

The guests from overseas included Architect Kevin Owens, Prof. Jo Noero, Architect Dr. Rory Hyde, Dr. Bimal Patel and Architect Mark Baughman, Dr. Darin Gunasekera and Dr. Ranjith Dayaratne who have come down to Sri Lanka specifically to address the National Conference on Architecture 2013.

Sarath Amunugama, Minister of International Monetary Co-operation and Deputy Minister of Finance and Planning, being welcomed at the inauguration of the Architect 2013, exhibition, which began at the BMICH yesterday.
The official theme for Architect 2013 “Think Smart Innovative Enterprise Architecture” was unveiled after the ceremonial commencement of the inauguration ceremony.

In his speech, Archt Ranjan Nadesapillai, President of SLIA said, “The celebration of our annual session is traditionally the culminating ceremonial function of the year where laudable achievements by the institute and the membership throughout the year are brought in to focus.

He also mentioned that the member's Work and Trade Exhibition, National Conference on Architecture, Annual General Meeting and the Fellowship Nite which were the main components of the annual sessions plays a significant role for architectural professionals and the construction industry in Sri Lanka.

Archt Nadesapillai also mentioned that the vision for the SLIA is to create the environment for its members to be the forerunners and stakeholders in the present Government's drive towards making Sri Lanka the Wonder of Asia in accordance with the vision of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Newly enrolled members of SLIA were presented with scrolls to epitomise their association with the Institute. The inauguration also saw awards of excellence in the field of architecture being presented to members of SLIA.

These awards recognised exceptional design abilities, use of colour and honoured outstanding design in various categories of construction.

This year an award and merit has been made to recognise outstanding contribution to architectural related publications in the last ten years.

In addition, product awards were presented to the best locally manufactured products.

Prof. Chithra Weddikkara, Senior Vice President of SLIA made the vote of thanks as they moved on to ceremonially open the members' Work and Trade Exhibition which was also being held at the BMICH until the February 24.

Apart from the inauguration ceremony the annual sessions of 2013 included the members' Trade and Work Exhibition, the National Conference, the Annual General Meeting and the Fellowship Nite for a festive closing.

Architect 2013 is organised by the SLIA together with the support of their Strategic Sponsor Alumex (Pvt) Ltd, Associate sponsor Ranjanas Ceramic Pvt Ltd and the main sponsor for the National Conference PhoenixFlowGuard.

The Fellowship Nite is sponsored by Charter House and Lankem Robbialac.

The event co - sponsors are Asoka Glass Co, Delmege Forsyth & Co Ltd and Bluscope Lysaght.

Michael Jackson's son gets TV showbiz job

US: The late King of Pop's eldest child, "Prince" Michael Jackson, has started work as a television showbiz reporter, the show employing him announced Tuesday.

The 16-year-old landed the job -- or the show's producers landed him -- for Entertainment Tonight, starting by interviewing stars of an upcoming remake of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."

"I'm looking to become well-rounded as a producer, director, screenwriter and actor," he said after being mentored through interviews with James Franco, Zach Braff and director Sam Raimi, of "Oz the Great and Powerful."

Jackson's father, who died in 2009 aged 50, played The Scarecrow in the 1978 feature film "The Wiz: The Super Soul Musical Wonderful Wizard of Oz," directed by Sidney Lumet.

ET correspondent Brooke Anderson, who gave the younger Jackson some on-screen tips on interview technique, said he seems so much wiser and older than 16. "That's what most of my people say. That was all thanks to my dad. He raised me right," said the teenager.

He said he now wants to interview "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" director Peter Jackson.

"I just love the way he shoots (and how) he brings things and depicts it back to life. I used to study his movies with my dad, put the volume off and just watch it, just the shots to see how he put it together," he said.


Blasts near a Syrian Presidential palace

SYRIA: Two mortar shells fired by “terrorists” exploded near Tishreen presidential palace in the Syrian capital on Tuesday, causing some damage but no casualties, state media said.

The mortars “landed near the southern wall of Tishreen palace, only causing material damage”, state news agency SANA quoted an unnamed official as saying.

The rebel Free Syrian Army claimed responsibility for the attack. According to SANA, the shells slammed into an area around the Al-Mouwassat and Children's hospital in west Damascus, “leaving no casualties”.

The hospitals are several hundred metres (yards) from Tishreen which is reserved for visiting dignitaries but is not an actual residence of President Bashar al-Assad.

This is the first time that the Syrian authorities have reported shells falling near a presidential palace. The military council of the rebel Free Syrian Army meanwhile announced on Facebook that “the Free Army has fired mortars at the Tishreen presidential palace, resulting in a definite hit”. Tishreen is one of three such palaces in the capital. The others are the Peoples' palace atop Mount Qassioun in the north and Rawda palace in the centre, which holds the executive offices.


Saudi women take seats in Sahura Council for first time

SAUDI ARABIA: Thirty Saudi women took seats in Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council, for the first time in the ultra-conservative kingdom’s history, as they were sworn in before King Abdullah on Tuesday at his palace in Riyadh. The women took their seats in the same room with their 130 male colleagues and were sworn in collectively, state television said. “The development we are working at must be gradual,” King Abdullah said in a brief statement broadcast on state television.

He recommended that the council show “realism” in its discussions and allow “reason to prevail in issues it has to deal” with.

On January 11, the king appointed the women, which include university graduates, human rights activists and two princesses, to the body.


Castro meets US lawmakers in Cuba

CUBA: President Raul Castro on Tuesday welcomed a delegation of US lawmakers, the first to come to Cuba since US President Barack Obama's re-election, the media reported. "Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla took part in the meeting, and issues of interest to both countries were addressed," a statement read out on the government news broadcast said.

The US legislators were in Havana to meet with Cuban officials and hope to visit an American contractor jailed for distributing laptops and satellite phones, diplomatic sources said earlier. The US lawmakers also met with Rodriguez Parrilla and Ricardo Alarcon, a former Cuban Ambassador to the United Nations and Assembly Speaker, the Cuban report said.

Sources at the US Interests Section said the delegation arrived Monday and is led by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.


Quality of teaching enhances through the ICT - Minister

THENNAKOON BANDARA - Monaragala Daily News Corr.
Information and Communication Technology enhances the quality of teaching and learning. It has become part of every day life in the modern society, said Wildlife Conservation Minister Vijith Vijamuni Soysa.

Wildlife Conservation Minister Vijith Vijithamuni Zoysa lays the foundation stone for the Mahindodaya Technology centre. Picture by Thennakoon Bandara Monaragala - Daily News Corr

The minister was speaking at the foundation laying ceremony for Mahindodaya Technology Centre at Mariarawa Maha Vidyalaya in the Madulla Educational Division recently.

The minister said the government takes measures to open up educational avenues for rural schools to pave the way for the students to keep pace with the new trends of technology. Teachers and students should possess ICT knowledge and English language to achieve millennium goals of education.

The minister appreciated the Mahindodaya concept which comes under the 1,000 school improvement project. He urged teachers, students, officials and parents to extend their support to make the project a success.

The minister said "it is high time we all united together sans discrimination as terrorism put to an end and we should contribute to win the hearts of others as the Western forces make false allegations towards the government." The Economic Development Ministry has allocated Rs. eight million for the project. Madulla PS chairman Chaminda Puspakumara, Madulla Divisional Secretary R.M.Rasika Thilakarathna, Bibile Zonal Education Director, Madulla Divisional Education Director Nalika Karunathilaka, Principal D. M. Thilakarathna and other government officials also participated.


'Revolution is unstoppable'

ECUADOR: Ecuadoran leader Rafael Correa insisted his revolution is unstoppable as he celebrated victory Monday in the country's presidential election, with early results giving him a huge 33-point lead over his main rival.

"Nobody is going to stop this revolution. We are making history," said Correa, claiming outright victory in the first round of the vote. "We are building our small homeland, and a larger one, too" he said Sunday, referring to Latin America.

With 54 percent of the ballots counted, Correa was ahead with nearly 57 percent of the vote, compared to banker Guillermo Lasso's 23.7 percent. To avoid a second round run-off, Correa must secure either 50 percent of the valid votes or 40 percent with a 10-point lead over the nearest contender. And the numbers indicated there was little that could stop him from achieving this goal.

Lasso, who served as finance minister during an economic crisis in the 1990s, conceded defeat shortly after the results were announced.

"Decent people like you, my family and my co-workers recognized the victories of other, and this night, I want to recognize the victory of President Rafael Correa," Lasso said in his concession speech.

Correa, 49, told a crowd from the balcony of the presidential palace that he was determined to continue serving his people and ensuring the country's progress.

"And I'd like to take this chance to dedicate this victory to that great Latin American leader who changed Venezuela, Comandante Hugo Chavez Frias," Correa said, the cancer-stricken Venezuelan president a swift recovery in Cuba.

Charismatic in his supporters' eyes and authoritarian to his foes, Correa's announcement came shortly after polls closed in an election he had been widely expected to win.

At stake besides the presidency were the country's vice presidency and 137 seats in the unicameral legislature. Opinion surveys indicated that Carrea's Country Alliance was poised to win between 60 and 65 percent of the parliamentary seats.

Helicopter scandal hangs over Cameron’s India visit

INDIA: British Prime Minister David Cameron arrives in India’s financial hub Mumbai on Monday on a three-day trade-focused visit clouded by a corruption scandal over British-made helicopters sold to New Delhi.

Cameron’s trip comes amid a raging scandal over the procurement of 12 helicopters for use by VIPs in 2010, which were bought for $748 million (560 million euros) from Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland.

After an investigation in Italy suggested kickbacks were paid via middlemen to secure the deal, India has taken steps to cancel the contract and has started its own police investigation.

The British Prime Minister is likely to face further questions about the contract -- the helicopters are being manufactured in southwest Britain -- with the Indian government keen to be seen to be acting tough on a new graft scandal.

“We did ask (Britain) in November and they said that since the Italians are investigating let us await the outcome (of that probe),” Indian foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told AFP.

Indian investigators will travel to Italy as ealy as this week as part of an inquiry into the matter, a spokesperson for the Delhi-based Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said Sunday.

Cameron, who is accompanied by a large business delegation, will be far keener to address new areas for trade and investment between Britain and its former colony, whose economy has slowed sharply but still offers vast potential.

The British leader has targeted a doubling of trade with India from 11.5 billion Pounds ($17.8 billion, 13.4 billion euros) in 2010 to 23 billion Pounds by the time he faces re-election in 2015.

After business meetings in Mumbai on Monday, he will fly to New Delhi for face-to-face talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday.

On his first trip to the country in 2010 after his election, Cameron pressed the case for the part-British Eurofighter jet, which was competing to win a $12-billion contract for 126 aircraft.

Last January, India selected a rival French plane, the Rafale made by Dassault Aviation, but with the deal still not finalised Cameron is likely to remind the Indian government of the Eurofighter’s merits.

Among his business delegation, executives from the Tesco supermarket chain are eyeing the retail sector following recent reforms to open up the market, as are bosses from the banking and insurance world.


Need to be done women security by Aishwarya Rai

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Former beauty queen and Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan feels strongly about safety of women in the country and says a lot needs to be done to make them feel secure.

The 39-year-old actress, also a mother of a one-year-old girl, says she is angry because a lot is being said but very little action is taken to rectify the situation.

"I don't feel fear, rather there is a lot of anger and I don't hesitate to say this. Many of us are privileged to have a lot of assurance about our safety but most of the women in our country do not have that.

"A lot is being said but a lot more needs to be done about it. There should be definite laws for offenders. They should be punished immediately. That is when we will see the change in the society," says Aishwarya, who was in the capital today to attend the second edition of Zindagi Live Awards.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, cricketer Gautam Gambhir and Union minister Farooq Abdullah also attended the ceremony, which felicitated eight women who challenged social stigmas.

Dressed in a blue and gold anarkali suit, the "Devdas" star said she is glad that people area now talking about the issue of women safety on public platforms after the horrendous Delhi rape incident that rocked the nation last December.

"Such incidents still happen though. It also happened the very next day of the Delhi gangrape. But I am glad that we are talking about it. The incident has brought about a lot of attention and awareness but the change needs to come immediately."

Aishwarya was last seen in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's "Guzaarish" in 2010


People's Bank 'Isuru Udana', 'Sisu Udana', prize winners awarded

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Deputy General Manager (Development, Co-operative and SME) of People’s Bank, T.A. Ariyapala is seen carrying out the prize draw. The Deputy General Manager (Retail Banking) of People’s Bank, Renuka Jayasinghe is also in the picture.

The prize draw for People's Bank "Isuru Udana" and "Sisu Udana" account holders were held the People's Bank Head Office recently to commemorate World Children's Day.

The draw witnessed "Isuru Udana" account holders being chosen and gifted 500, Kids Learning Laptops, while "Sisu Udana" account holders were gifted 750 Language Companions.

Accounts that were eligible for the prize draw were all new or existing accounts for a deposit of Rs. 5,000/- between October 01 until Novemer 30 2012.

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Ceylinco Life's 'Pranama' scholarship tops Rs 83 ml

Ceylinco Life's investment in rewarding the academic and extracurricular achievements of young Sri Lankans topped Rs 83 million this month, when the life insurance leader awarded another 150 'Pranama' scholarships.

Recipients of Ceylinco Life Pranama scholarships in the Year five category with directors of the Company

The 12th edition of this annual event brought the total number of Ceylinco Life Pranama scholarships awarded to 1,614, with recipients ranging from students who performed well at the Year five scholarship examination to young adults who have excelled at the national level in non-academic pursuits.

Speaking at the ceremony, Ceylinco Life Managing Director/CEO R. Renganathan pointed out that every parent knows that the best gift he or she can give a child is an investment in the child's education.

"However, while the value of education increases by the day, so does the cost of education, and the degree of competition," Mr. Renganathan said, noting that the incomes of parents do not increase proportionately. "Ceylinco Life is therefore happy to contribute to the cost of education of our country's future leaders," he said.

"Sri Lanka needs leaders who know what it takes to win, and how to accept losing," Renganathan added. "These leadership qualities are developed at home, continue to be nurtured in school, and are tested on the sports field and in other areas of endeavour."

Guest of Honour Prof. Mohan de Silva, Dean of the Faculty of Medical Science of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura in his address said it is rare to see a private company providing scholarships on this scale to recognise the achievements of children. "As a teacher, I truly appreciate this community initiative, which contributes to building the character and potential of young people," he said.

One of many benefits available to Ceylinco Life policyholders, the Pranama scholarship scheme underscores the importance accorded by the company to education, which is one the key areas of intervention in the Ceylinco Life Rewards programme.

HNB Assurance provides drinking water to remote schools

HNB Assurance providing schools in need drinking water has undertaken yet another project in supplying healthy water systems for two remote schools in Embilipitiya recently. HNB Assurance is an entity that has constantly contributed towards many remote schools island wide for the past few years.

Diyapotha Vidyalaya currently has 175 students, parents of these students are mostly self-employed in cultivation. Weeraba Vidyalaya, another remote school in Embilipitiya was also provided with a healthy water system.

 Lalith Fernando, General Manager Marketing and Distribution
of HNB Assurance inaugurating the new water project
at the Weeraba Vidyalaya.

It is the centre of education for over 500 under privileged students and being deprived of clean water suitable for drinking purpose, been the main problem, the school was suffering from. The principals of Weeraba Vidyalaya and Diyapota Vidyalaya extended their gratitude to HNB Assurance for their contribution towards the betterment of these children.

Lalith Fernando, General Manager Marketing and Distribution of HNB Assurance commissioned the new water projects along with Dilshan Pereram Head of Marketing, A.R.B Salih, Zonal Manager Southern, Madusha Kulathunga, Branch Manager Embilipitiya of HNB Assurance.

"HNB Assurance, being a corporate entity that strives to fulfill its corporate social responsibilities, is looking forward in contributing to several other water supply projects in future' said Lalith Fernando, General Manager, Marketing and Distribution of HNB Assurance PLC.


Beijing expresses 'firm opposition' to DPRK nuke test

CHINA: China said it strongly opposes Pyongyang's third nuclear test conducted on Tuesday, and observers are calling for calm and restrain among all parties to avoid aggravating an already tense situation.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea said on Tuesday it has successfully conducted the third underground nuclear test, according to the official KCNA news agency. The test was carried out in Kilju County of North Hamkyung Province, and was done in a "safe and perfect" way with a smaller A-bomb unlike previous ones, the KCNA said.

The test site is about 100 km from the China - DPRK border.

A statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the nuclear test was conducted "in disregard of the common opposition of the international community", and "the Chinese government is firmly opposed to this act".

"We strongly urge the DPRK to honor its commitment to denuclearization and refrain from any move that may further worsen the situation," it said.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on Tuesday also summoned the DPRK ambassador to China, Ji Jae-ryong. He urged Pyongyang to return to the track of dialogue and negotiation. A commentary by China's official news agency Xinhua said it has come to a point for parties concerned to act rationally to create favorable conditions to revive long-stalled Six-Party Talks and "avoid a disastrous fallout".

Yu Meihua, director of the Center for Korean Peninsula Peace Studies under the China Reform Forum, said the situation has come to a critical point, and a strong recipe is needed to deal with both the "symptoms and root causes" of the issue. "The parties involved should persist in effort to promote denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and Pyongyang's concerns on security should be considered," Yu said. Pyongyang conducted two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

Both tests were denounced by UN Security Council resolutions.


Apollo 16 astronaut left family picture on Moon 40 years ago

US: Apollo 16 astronaut Charles Duke did not just leave his footprints on the Moon, he also left a family photograph on his historic trip to the lunar surface 40 years ago.

Astronauts Charlie Duke and John Young embarked on a lunar mission on April 23 1972, to explore the Moon's Descartes Highlands in a Lunar Roving Vehicle.

Before setting up a Solar Wind Collector, Lunar Module pilot Duke left a photograph of himself with his wife and their two sons, Thomas and Charles, sitting on a bench. It remains there till this day, the 'Daily Mail' reported.

The reverse of the photo is signed by Duke's family and bears the message: "This is the family of Astronaut Duke from Planet Earth. Landed on the Moon, April 1972."

Duke photographed the family picture with a Hasselblad camera as it rested on the dusty surface next to one of his boot prints.

The image was unearthed in the Project Apollo Image Archive, which serves as an on-line reference source and repository of digital images pertaining to the historic manned lunar landing programme.

Duke also left a commemorative medal issued by the US Air Force, which was celebrating its 25th anniversary in 1972.

Apollo 16 was the tenth manned mission in the US Apollo space programme, the fifth to land on the Moon and the first to land in the lunar highlands.

The crew was Commanded by John Young, along with Lunar Module Pilot Charles Duke and Command Module Pilot Ken Mattingly.

Launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 16, 1972, the mission lasted 11 days, 1 hour, and 51 minutes, and concluded on April 27.

It was also the second flight of the Lunar Roving Vehicle which was used to transport Young and Duke 26.7 kilometres across the Moon's surface.

At the age of 36, Duke became the tenth and youngest human to walk on the Moon.

After setting foot on the lunar surface, Duke exclaimed: 'Fantastic! Oh, that first foot on the lunar surface is super!

The pair spent just under three days on the Moon's surface, during which they conducted three extra-vehicular activities or moonwalks, totalling 20 hours and 14 minutes, and collected 95.8 kg of lunar samples to take back to Earth.


NDB Group records phenomenal results

Financial year 2012 proved to be an year of record performance for NDB as it reported a 37 % and 45 % increase in profit before tax (PBT) and profit after tax (PAT) respectively, with its asset base recording an increase of 17 % over December 31, 2011. These growth levels resulted in a PBT of Rs. 4.6 billion and PAT of Rs. 3 billion.

Hemaka Amarasuriya and Russell de Mel
However, it is noteworthy to mention that the share of profits available for shareholders at a group level increased significantly by 227 % to Rs 8.8 billion, due to the capital gains of Rs 6 billion generated as a result of the divestment of the investment in AVIVA NDB Insurance PLC to American International Assurance (AIA) Company Limited of Hong Kong during the fourth quarter of 2012.
The Net Interest Income of the bank increased by 26 % over the last year with other income from fees, commission and forex income increasing by 22 % to Rs. 2.3 billion.

On the operating expenses side, gross administrative expenses increased with a controlled growth of 16 % over last year.

Provisions for loan losses for the period were reported at Rs. 94 million for the year compared to the reversal of Rs 326 million in 2011, due to provision recoveries/releases of Rs 426 mn in 2011.

The asset base of the bank grew to Rs. 162 billion as at December 31, 2012 from Rs. 138 billion as at year end 2011 indicating continued acceleration of development financing activities by the bank.

Advances (gross) of the bank was Rs. 119.2 billion with an increase of 18% over 2011, mainly on account of growth in the SMEs, agriculture and the service sectors.

The deposit base of the bank increased by 31%, with a 10% and 60% increase reported in current and saving deposits respectively, improving the CASA percentage substantially.

The bank also achieved a 21% return on equity and reported improved Earnings Per Share (EPS) from Rs 12.25 in 2011 to Rs 17.74. However, the Group EPS for 2012 is significantly higher at Rs 53.82 due to the capital gain of Rs 6 billion earned by the NDB Group from divesting NDB Group’s holding in AVIVA NDB Insurance PLC to AIA.

The balance sheet growth of the NDB group of 21% from the previous financial year points to a sound financial position and the shareholders’ equity base increasing by Rs 8 billion to Rs 25 billion. This significant surplus in shareholder funds within the NDB group will result in the Bank having ample opportunities in moving forward to benefit from development opportunities in the country and in the region.

During 2012 the Bank expanded its distribution network by opening nine branches.NDB continued to remain focused on driving the SME business segment and opened four more dedicated SME Centres in Kandy, Anuradhapura Matara and Kalutara. NDB’s SME Centres aim to provide a one-stop-shop for the diverse needs of entrepreneurs. They are equipped to provide 360 degree solutions ranging from financial expertise on SME Banking services, industry expertise for those who intend to start up new business ventures to investment and capital management advice along with a gamut of customized credit facilities. The bank also conducted SME workshops in several regions.


GSK invests Rs 203 mn in ayurvedic manufacturing facility

Embarking on yet another milestone, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare – Sri Lanka, (GSK) launched the new local manufacturing facility for Eno (Ayurvedic powder for acidity) and Iodex (Ayurvedic Balm) with an investment of Rs 203 million , re-affirming its commitment to the Sri Lankan economy.

Basil Rajapaksa, Minister of Economic Development commissioning the new manufacturing facility
This comes following the commission of GSK’s manufacturing facility for Panadol tablets in April 2012, with an investment of Rs 217 million. The new Eno and Iodex manufacturing facility is amongst the largest state of the art ayurvedha production facilities in Sri Lanka and conforms to GSK’s strictest global quality standards; a testament to GSK’s promise to its community to help people do more, feel better and live longer.”

The new facilities will be located adjacent to its present pharmaceutical operation in Moratuwa and will have over 65 employees, making a contribution to the area’s employment scenario. The new facility was declared open by Basil Rajapaksa, Minister for Economic Development in the presence of many dignitaries and GSK personnel. Commenting at the launch ceremony, Managing Director of GSK Consumer Healthcare Sri Lanka, T.S Dayanand, said “At a time when Sri Lanka is poised for growth in all economic sectors, GSK is proud to unveil another initiative to support ‘Nation Building’ by commissioning the Eno and Iodex plants.

“ We strongly believe that this investment will further strengthen the ayurvedic manufacturing landscape in Sri Lanka. GSK employs over 500 people and works closely with over 200 business partners in Sri Lanka, thereby touching lives of numerous people.

We will continue to live up to our vision of improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.”

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare – Sri Lanka is part of GlaxoSmithKline PLC. – one of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies operating in 117 countries that is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.

Commercial Credit’s Debenture Issue oversubscribed

Commercial Credit and Finance PLC’s issue of five-year Debentures has been oversubscribed on February 13, the scheduled closing date of the issue. This much-awaited issue of 2.5 million debentures opened on January 23, 2013 with an option to issue a further 2.5 million debentures thus bringing the total value of the issue to Rs. 500 million.

CEO of Commercial Credit and Finance PLC Roshan Egodage said, “We are very happy with the performance of this Debenture Issue and thank the public of Sri Lanka for the confidence they have placed in Commercial Credit.

This Debenture Issue has afforded investors the unique opportunity to be a part of our continuing endeavours to reach out to more people and thus enhance the quality of their lives.”

These five-year unsecured, subordinated, redeemable Debentures will be listed on the Second Board of the Colombo Stock Exchange with 20 % interest payable on a quarterly basis. These Debentures will yield an annual effective rate of 21.55 %. With the recent amendments to the taxation regulations, interest income on these debentures will be exempt from income tax.

Consequently no Withholding Tax is deductible.

Bankers to the Issue is Hatton National Bank PLC while the manager and registrars to the Issue is Merchant Bank of Sri Lanka.

The Trustee to the Issue is Deutsche Bank AG, Colombo Branch. RAM Ratings Lanka Ltd has assigned a long term rating of BB to these debentures.


Pope urges end to hypocrisy at final mass

VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI urged an end to “religious hypocrisy” and “rivalry” in the Catholic Church as he donned his papal mitre for the last time at an emotional mass in St Peter's Basilica on Wednesday.

Wearing the purple robes of Lent -- a period of penitence for Christians before Easter -- the pontiff was conveyed through the basilica's vast nave on a mobile platform because of his growing infirmity.

Benedict urged the faithful to be sincere in their faith in his final mass as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics before he becomes only the second pontiff to resign voluntarily in the Church's 2,000 years.

He condemned “religious hypocrisy” and called for an end to divisions, saying that “the face of the Church is sometimes marred by sins against the unity of the Church and divisions in the clergy”, an apparent reference to the paedophilia or Vatileaks scandals plaguing the institution.

The pope also called for an end to “individualism and rivalry”.

Earlier Wednesday, the frail pontiff was greeted by a standing ovation, applause and chants of “Benedetto” at his weekly audience with thousands of believers in a Vatican auditorium.

A prominent banner read: “Thank You, Holiness”. Benedict told the crowd he had taken his momentous decision “for the good of the Church”.

“Keep praying for me, for the Church and for the future pope,” he said, his voice full of emotion.

Wearing his workaday white cassock and skullcap, the pontiff said he could feel the faithful's love “almost physically in these difficult days”.

The Vatican announced that cardinal electors -- the princes of the Church -- will meet on or in the days after March 15 to choose Benedict's successor.

“The beginning of the conclave cannot be before March 15,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told a press conference. “We have to expect a conclave starting on the 15th, 16th, 17th 18th or 19th.”

The secret conclave held in the Sistine Chapel under Michelangelo's famed ceiling frescoes -- deliberations that normally last a few days -- should produce a new pope in time for Easter.

Many ordinary Catholics have said they would like the new pope to be more in tune with the times after the traditionalist reigns of Benedict and his long-time predecessor John Paul II.

“I want someone who is youthful and with a youthful spirit who can be more flexible,” said Ieva Tamosaityte, 25, a Lithuanian musician in the congregation at the pope's last mass.

“I would like future popes to retire when they get old too,” she said, as staff in the basilica distributed photos of the outgoing pope.

Rumours have begun flying over front-runners to succeed Benedict, but no clear candidate has emerged yet and the decision will be up to the 117 elector cardinals.

While some hope that Africa or Asia could yield the next pontiff, others have tipped high-flying European or north American cardinals.


Iran has fully cooperated with IAEA - FM

IRAN: Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi says the Islamic Republic has always fully cooperated with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Salehi said in a press conference in Moscow on Tuesday that Iran has always cooperated with the IAEA and that IAEA inspectors had an “unprecedented” record of visits to Iran’s nuclear facilities “in the history of the agency.”

The Iranian Foreign Minister added that the IAEA inspectors had carried out over 7,000 man-hours of inspecting Iranian facilities.

Salehi said the inspections were carried out abruptly as the inspectors announced the site of their visits two hours before the inspections began.

The Iranian Foreign Minister also rejected claims that Iran did not allow IAEA inspections of its Parchin military site, saying that Parchin was “not a nuclear site.” The Parchin site has been inspected once before and a framework is needed for a next visit to the site, Salehi stated.

Salehi pointed to a delegation of the IAEA that arrived in Tehran on Wednesday for a new round of talks with Iranian officials and said the delegation would also discuss the aforementioned framework.

The United States, the Israeli regime, and some of their allies have falsely accused Iran of pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.

Iran rejects the allegation and argues that as a committed signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the IAEA, it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.


Hollande pushes $12bn jet deal in India

INDIA: French President Francois Hollande made a fresh push Thursday to clinch the world’s biggest defence deal, the $12 billion sale of 126 warplanes to India, during his first visit to Asia since taking office.

The Socialist president was accompanied by a high-powered delegation of five ministers including Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

The two-day visit by politicians and business leaders began in New Delhi and will see the delegation head south to India’s financial capital Mumbai on Friday.

Speaking in English after being accorded a red carpet reception and gun salute at the residence of his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee, Hollande said it was “a great honour for me and for France to visit India”.

“I am sure that this visit will see our relationship at the best level we can hope,” Hollande said.

“We come from a great partnership, India and France, and we must always improve the relationship between our two countries. “India is a great democracy, the biggest democracy of the world, a country which is developing and France must be with you in this challenge.” The trip is Hollande’s first to Asia since taking office in May and both Indian and French officials say the mission underscores the importance France attaches to ties with the world’s second-fastest growing major economy.

“Our relations are growing fast in all sectors... in economic, industrial and commercial spheres,” an Indian foreign ministry official said, while cautioning against expecting any big-bang announcements from Hollande’s visit.

Hollande is accompanied by a large contingent of French business leaders, including Dassault chief executive Eric Trappier, whose company is hoping to seal a deal to sell 126 Rafale warplanes to India in the world’s biggest defence contract currently under negotiation.

The contract, which India’s airforce chief said last week could be signed by the middle of the year, featured prominently in Hollande’s talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh which followed his meeting with Mukherjee.


Passenger Demand Grew as Air Cargo Declined in 2012

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced full-year traffic data for 2012 showing a 5.3% year-on-year increase in passenger demand and a 1.5% fall for cargo.

The 5.3% increase in passenger demand was slightly down on 2011 growth by 5.9% but above the 5% twenty-year average. Load factors for the year were near record levels at 79.1%. Demand in international markets expanded at a faster rate (6.0%) than domestic travel (4.0%). In both cases emerging markets were the main drivers of growth.

The 1.5% fall in demand for air cargo compared to 2011 marked the second consecutive year of decline, following a 0.6% contraction in 2011. The freight load factor for the year was 45.2%.

"Passenger demand grew strongly in 2012 despite the economic bad news that dominated much of the last twelve months. This demonstrates just how integral global air travel is for today's connected world." 

Abans launches GPS Navigation Systems

Abans announced the launch of the DPJH SatGuide Navigation System in Sri Lanka. This state of the art navigation system provides users with turn by turn navigation through the bustling streets of the island, and it is up to date with all the latest roadways and infrastructure developments.

The SatGuide boasts an index of over 225,000 important Islandwide locations and its voice guidance is available in English, Sinhala and Tamil. Searching for corporate entities will also be a breeze thanks to the SatGuide's Business Directory, which holds contact information of all major companies in Sri Lanka.

The SatGuide's features, however, are not limited to that of navigation.

The device can also be used to listen to music, watch videos, play games, view photos, listen to FM radio and a variety of other options.

Pertinent travel information for Sri Lanka can also be accessed through the device on the offline website:

The in-built G2SL Software in the device gives you invaluable information on Sri Lanka's most sought after Historical Places, Restaurants, Hotels, Shopping Complexes and other important locations.

This remarkable travelers companion has a 2GB/4GB Data Storage capacity, stores over 1000 songs, Video and Audio Player, FM Transmitter, Games and information on over 225 important locations islandwide. 

Malaysian Airlines in countdown towards joining oneworld airline alliance

by M F Jabir in KUALA LUMPUR
Malaysia Airlines had begun the final countdown towards joining the ‘oneworld’ global airline alliance from Friday, February 1, said Ismadi bin Mohd Yusuff, Controller Media Relations Strategic Communications Malaysia Airlines.

The final preparations are being initiated for a massive communications programme to highlight the development, which is a key element of Malaysia's national flag carrier’s turnaround strategy, as it marks 40 years of delivering its unique Malaysian hospitality to its guests since it first took wings as Malaysia Airlines.

A Malaysian Stewardess with Malaysia Airlines Group CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya (second
from left) and Malaysia Airlines Chairman Tan Sri Md Nor Yusof (second from right)
The airline would stage a two day of celebration, to mark its addition to the world’s premier airline alliance.

Senior Executives from the existing partners of the award-winning global alliance, would be flying into Kuala Lumpur, to welcome Malaysia Airlines as the latest member of their airline family.

On Friday, February 1, its first day as a partner of the alliance, representatives from all oneworld member airlines, would join Malaysia Airlines Group CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya and his top team at KL International Airport to welcome the passengers on the airline’s first departure, by offering oneworld services and benefits.

Being part of 'oneworld,' represents the latest key step by the Malaysian flag carrier and multi award winner in its repositioning programme, it would fly alongside some of the largest and best known brands in the world airline industry such as Airberlin, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Qantas, Royal Jordanian and Russia’s S7 Airlines.
 A Malaysian Stewardess with Malaysia Airlines Group CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya (second
from left) and Malaysia Airlines Chairman Tan Sri Md Nor Yusof (second from right) 

During the 15 years since global airline alliances first emerged, oneworld and the other two have grown to such an extent that their member airlines now account for some two-thirds of total global airline capacity.

Malaysia Airlines, in addition to oneworld, would expand the alliance’s global coverage to more than 840 destinations in 155 countries, served by some 9,000 departures a day and operated by a combined fleet of some 2,500 aircraft, carrying nearly 340 million passengers an year, with annual revenues of US$ 110 billion.

Group CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said, “oneworld enables its member airlines to deliver more services and benefits to their customers, particularly frequent flyers than any airline can on its own. 

Source ;

Former French First Lady resumes music career

FRANCE: Carla Bruni is to resume her musical career with an autumn tour and a new album that sees France's former First Lady reminiscing about her time spent hanging out with the Rolling Stones.

The first dates for the tour, November 22-24 at the 1,500-seat Casino de Paris, were published on Wednesday, hot on the heels of the release of the first extract from "Little French Songs", the Italian former supermodel's fourth album which is due to be released on April 1.

A former girlfriend of Mick Jagger, Bruni has penned a song entitled "Chez Keith et Anita" (At Keith and Anita's place), which depicts the drug-fuelled lifestyle of Stones guitarist Keith Richards and his longtime girlfriend Anita Pallenberg.


Facebook lets friends send gift cards

US: Facebook on Thursday began letting social network members in the United States send friends gift cards for purchases at participating shops or restaurants.

The move came as the world's leading social network seeks ways to expand how it makes money from its 1.06 billion monthly users, the majority of whom access the social network from smartphones or tablet computers.

Facebook was gradually adding the ability of US members to easily send cards loaded with cash credit at Jamba Juice, Target, Sephora or restaurant chain Olive Garden, according to a blog post. "Your friend will be notified instantly about your gift, and will receive a Facebook Card in the mail a few days later," Facebook said.

"As soon as it arrives, your friend can use the card at the retailer you've chosen for the amount you've gifted." Facebook made gift cards reusable, indicating that the California-based company wants them to have homes in people's wallets.


Assange to run for Australian senate

AUSTRALIA: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will run for a seat in the Australian Senate during this year's elections, his organisation announced Wednesday, with his mother saying he would be “awesome” in the role.

WikiLeaks unveiled the plan with a tweet that read “Australia: Julian Assange has confirmed he will run in the 2013 national election for the Australian Senate”, just hours after Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the nation would go to the polls on September 14.

The 41-year-old's mother, Christine Assange, was delighted. “He will be awesome. In the House of Representatives we get to choose between US lackey party number one and US lackey party number two -- between the major parties. “So it will be great to 'Assange' the Senate for some Aussie oversight,” she was quoted as saying by the Australian Associated Press.

Assange, who announced his intention to stand for Senate last year, has been holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London since June, after claiming asylum in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces allegations of sex crimes.

Britain has refused to grant him safe passage out of the country.

The former computer hacker fears Sweden will allow him to be extradited to the United States to be questioned over the WikiLeaks release of thousands of US diplomatic cables.

A later WikiLeaks tweet said Queensland-born Assange would “run on WikiLeaks party ticket”. Assange said last year that he was planning to register a WikiLeaks party with the Australian Electoral Commission, The Age newspaper reported at the time.

To do so he would require the support of 500 eligible voters, the paper said, adding that if he were elected while still out of the country a nominee would occupy the Senate seat.

It was unclear whether being elected a senator would have any bearing on his status in Britain and whether London would allow him to leave the country of his own accord.

Despite the allegations against him Assange remains a popular figure in Australia.


Rallies held in Canada to support aboriginal rights

CANADA: Members of Canadian aboriginal communities and human rights activists have rallied in several cities in Canada and around the world against Ottawa’s policies violating the rights of the aboriginals. Supporters of “Idle No More,” a protest movement campaigning for the rights of the aboriginals in Canada, demonstrated Monday in 30 Canadian cities, including Montreal, Halifax, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Calgary, despite the country’s freezing winter weather.

Some 300 protesters marched on Parliament Hill in Ottawa as MPs returned to the House of Commons after the six-week-long winter break, urging the MPs to take action on the rights of the indigenous people. Similar demonstrations were held in several states across the United States, including Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Texas, Washington State, and North Carolina.

Also in Europe, Idle No More supporters rallied in London, Paris, and the Swedish city of Malmo. The organizers of the movement said in a statement on the Idle No More website that the day of action would “peacefully protest attacks on Democracy, Indigenous Sovereignty, Human Rights and Environmental Protections when Canadian MPs return to the House of Commons on January 28th.”

The movement began last November after Attawapiskat First Nations Chief Theresa Spence began a hunger strike over the violation of aboriginals’ rights. Spence ended her strike on Thursday after indigenous groups and opposition parties signed a deal spelling out a list of demands they would present to the government.

The declaration calls for the government to improve housing and schools as well as to acknowledge treaty rights for Canada’s 600 native tribes. The protests over the past two months had prompted the United Nations to urge Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government to set up talks in accordance with the standards expressed in the organization’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Since December 14, 2012, indigenous peoples in Canada have held demonstrations against the government which, on that day, approved Bill C-45 through parliament to change the rules about aboriginal lands.


Thrill-seeking surfer catches ‘world’s biggest wave’

UK: This thrill-seeking surfer was but a speck on this enormous wall of water as he appeared to set a new world record for the biggest wave ever ridden. Surfing legend Garrett McNamara caught the towering wave - believed to have measured around 100ft - off the coast of Nazare, in Portugal recently.

If the claims are verified the U.S. born athlete will have successfully beaten his own record, which was also set at Nazare, when he successfully rode a 78ft high break at the end of 2011. Mr McNamara, 45, was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, but his family moved to Hawaii’s North Shore when he was 11 where he followed in his older brother Liam’s footsteps and began to surf.

He started competing professionally at the age of 17 and spent ten years on the circuit with his brother.

His previous record breaking ride in 2011, described as ‘inspiring’ by fellow pro-surfers, beat the previous record by one foot. The surfer’s latest breathtaking feat came yesterday, as huge waves crashed off the coast of Nazare throughout the day. The exposed beach break in the north of the country attracts surfers all year round.

McNamara risked being forced dozens of feet beneath the water, or slamming into a reef or the ocean floor, if he had wiped out on the massive wave. His 2011 record was confirmed by a panel of experts at the annual Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards.


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