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November 2007

BUSINESS TODAY TOP 10

Business Today held its 10th Top 10 awards ceremony to recognise companies that have excelled in business. This year's ceremony saw Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka walk away with the top spot, while Sri Lanka Telecom came second with Dialog Telekom in third place.

Dignitaries and award winners address the gathering Important dignitaries at the event and the representatives of each of the Business Today Top 10 companies addressed the gathering.

Venerable Galaboda Gnanissara Thero, The Chief Priest of the Gangarama Temple and Sangha Nayake of the Western Province

All religions preach the importance of lasting peace, happiness and development for the wellbeing of all mankind. Sri Lanka is a multi-religious country, with Buddhism being the main religion. Over 2500 years ago, the Lord Buddha preached that one should invest two parts of his income: with one part being allocated for any emergency situation. One should use the remaining part to sustain his day-to-day livelihood.

The Lord Buddha has preached not only how to attain nirvana, but also how one should live a life of happiness. This is why he advocated this particular economic system.

This event has been organised over the years by Mathi and Glenda Parthipan along with the team of BT Options, to appreciate the services rendered by the business community as well as to provide encouragement to continuously do so. Last year, honourable President Mahinda Rajapaksa who was then the Prime Minister of the country, was the patron of this prestigious ceremony. Today, he is paying tribute to that, by attending this event, despite being sick after having to attend a political rally at Badulla. We all have an important role to play in rebuilding economy of this country. I would like to use this opportunity to make a suggestion. The business community assembled here today has the obligation to come into the forefront in order to guide the lives of the younger generation, especially in regards to their marital life. I firmly believe that with the support of religious leaders, this kind of programme should be formulated, as it will benefit those living in the rural areas. By undertaking such initiatives, we also take steps in safeguarding of the development of the country. There is an obligation to protect the citizens of the country as well as the younger generation. The responsibility of the business community lies in gaining the required participation, knowledge and discipline to develop this country. I would like to bring this also to everyone's attention.

Mathi Parthipan's company publishes a wide variety of magazines that offers knowledge on Sri Lanka to foreigners who visit the country. This is something that we are proud of as well as bringing us great honour. It also supports the upliftment of tourism in the country. I would like to thank Mathi Parthipan and his board of directors for their endeavours and I wish all of you a successful future.

Ratnasiri Wickramanayake, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka

I am happy to be present at this prestigious award ceremony for the business community, organised by the magazine Business Today. Let me congratulate the award winners for their performance and the resulting contribution to the economy and therefore the country. Sri Lanka is a mixed economy, in which the government and private sector must and indeed do work together to develop the economy, a joint endeavour that ensures the growth and prosperity reaches the people of our land. The partnership has not only been fully cordial but also successful.

Last year, despite the obstacles, violence and disruptions caused by the terrorists, we achieved a commendable economic growth of 7.4%. This was achieved not by accident but by sound economic policies. Last year we achieved a total of five record direct investments of more than US$ 600 mn. This increase, which is more than a double the previous record, is a reflection of the trust this government has earned from the international and Sri Lankan business community.

We expect to exceed this investment for this year. In 2007, despite international challenges imploding at unprecedented highs in world prices, we have continued sound economic management. Internally, we have taken great strides towards eliminating the scourge of terrorism.

For the first time in more than a decade the people of the east can benefit from the country's economic development policies. The Navodya programme in the east implemented by the government, assists all the people of the Eastern Province. Our policy has been to combat terrorism fearlessly while developing the economy.

Another important part of our economic strategy is poverty alleviation. Although we are classified as a middle-income country, a significant number of Sri Lankans still live below the poverty line. One realises that in economics it takes several years for top line growth to filter to the bottom. We need to actively assist vulnerable groups of our country. This is the role of the government. It is your role as the business community to work with the government in achieving a sound economic growth. If we are to raise our living standards significantly, it is essential to maintain this high degree of growth rate. Our ten-year plan has been prepared with this target in mind.

One of the most critical components in the development of the economy is infrastructure development. We are investing in power generation, road development, port and airport development projects. To give an impetus to infrastructure development the Board of Investment has set up a new division to handle mega projects under the private-public partnership banner, where the two sectors can work together. Infrastructure is also important for rural development. Our goal is to improve the rural areas, not by giving short term subsidies to businesses but by developing the underlying infrastructure so that the private sector can access rural areas, which are rich in resources and has untapped labour.

Consistent with the Mahinda Chinthana, our key programmes such as 'Maga Naguma,' 'Gama Naguma,' 'East Rising,' or Navodhaya, mega irrigation projects including the Horagahakanda Reservoir and highways linking the city and the village are geared towards receiving equitable development.

Another area we are focusing on is our Preferential Trading Agreement with India, Pakistan and the European Union. Sri Lanka is the only country with Free Trade Agreements with both India and Pakistan, fast growing markets with a population of nearly 1.3 billion. We want to have duty free access to the European Union market through the GSP plus agreement. These are facilities that the business community must fully utilise to create jobs and opportunities. Nearly eight million of our total work force of 11 million are employed by the private sector. It is essential that the private sector continues to invest in improving productivity. The most sustainable economic growth is achieved when salaries and living standards are increased due to productivity gain as this does not create inflation. I have noted that several of tonight's award winners are those that have adjusted to changing times. It is the ability to innovate and grow that will determine the leaders of tomorrow. I urge traditionally successful Sri Lankan companies to come out of their shell and venture into new areas to create opportunities for their shareholders, employees and for the overall economy of the country.

The government recognises the role of a dynamic private sector in sustaining economic growth. Tonight as we applaud the effort of the best achievers, we give you our commitment that the government will work with you in engaging a strong and healthy economy that benefits all Sri Lankans.

Speech by Keith Bernard, Analyst – Business Today Top 10

Once again we gather to celebrate corporate excellence and recognise the Business Today Top 10 companies, this time for their performance in the year 2005 – 06. This awards ceremony, usually graced by The President or Prime Minister of the country, was last time held under the auspices of His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapakse, then as the Prime Minister, on the day he received nomination to contest the last presidential election, hence, Business Today must be elated and proud to have His Excellency grace this function and feel honoured to have been allowed the use of the presidential secretariat for the purpose.

I congratulate Business Today for successfully conducting the Top 10 survey and event, now in its tenth year. I have had the privilege of being associated with the selection of the Top 10 companies since its origin and thank Mathi Parthipan for his confidence in me. I know that Business Today places a lot of importance in the selection of its Top 10 companies and has invested a lot in this annual survey and event without expectations of any return. The very fact that some of the companies that had been regularly selected to the Top 10 list do not advertise with Business Today is testimony to the sincerity of the process. Business Today, I know, does this as part of its contribution towards society, and that is laudable.

Before speaking further, I like to recognize an individual who was in fact the chief architect of this Business Today Top 10 Awards, and who tirelessly worked towards perfecting the system of selection. Dinesh Weerakkody is that individual and deserves much credit for the success of this award. Unfortunately Dinesh discontinued his active involvement in selecting the Top 10 companies because of other commitments. He still offers expert advise but in ways that don't amount to a conflict of interest.

Having been an adjudicator of the Top 10 Awards continuously since its introduction, I can sincerely say that the selection process is very rigorous and receives detailed attention.

To qualify, all candidates must first and foremost be public quoted companies. This is to make sure that information about their financial performance are published and are credible. Companies active in the Colombo Stock Exchange are selected and that list is further narrowed in terms of turnover. This is done to make sure that the candidates are of comparable size. These companies are then subjected to an evaluation based on financial criteria and a system of weights that have been thoroughly tested and refined over the years.

A general observation of the pattern of top performers over a period of a decade throws some interesting revelations. In the early years of the survey, the top slots in the ranking were dominated by financial institutions, mainly banks, and this also included development banks. In the last five years or so these slots have been taken over by the emerging conglomerates. Also interesting to note is that two of the manufacturing companies that have been consistently finding places among the Top 10 are Distilleries and Tobacco. All other top performers have predominantly been from the service sector, particularly with interests in finance, transport and leisure. Development banks, which outperformed many others in the past are of late either trailing others or have lost position. The striking development though is that companies with interests in the telecom sector have parachuted to the top of the list of best performers. Also note worthy is that some of the traditional big names in Sri Lankan business would do well to rethink their business models if they are to hold their lead positions in the longer term. And the experience over a decade has proved that the Business Today Top 10 serves as a good indicator of the evolving business trends and growth sectors in the country.

It is pertinent to mention that the Business Today Top 10 does not in any way deny the status of other top corporate performers in the country. Many compete vigorously and the slightest movement in results could significantly affect the rankings and change the positions of the Top 10. It must also be said that there are many companies and conglomerates that stand shoulder to shoulder with those among the Top 10, but unfortunately cannot be considered because of the pre condition of the need to be a public quoted company to qualify. I hope some of these companies will seek listings in the future and enter the fray so they too could be bestowed the status they rightly deserve.

I wish to use the opportunity to congratulate those business leaders and their teams who steered their companies to corporate excellence. Other corporate leaders are not unfamiliar with what it takes to lead their businesses to success. The CEOs and leaders of corporate Sri Lanka have the rare opportunity to play an active role in building this nation. As a country we are gifted with a pool of talent and strong business leaders that have shown resilience in the face of adversity. The answer to the challenges posed today as you would agree is not to stay complaining or drifting in hope, but finding the foresight and courage that you are endowed with to push steadfastly forward - as the corporate front-runners you have to lead the way. Ken Chenault, CEO of American Express in an interview given to the Fortune Magazine recently, said, reputations are won or lost in a crisis. I think that is a very strong and profound statement and aptly fit the present context.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I don't stand before you to lecture on business, but you need to constantly remind yourself that your stakeholders depend on you to grow and thrive. Survival will not guarantee success but relentless pursuance would. Business leaders today cannot afford to stay complacent – to thrive is to be agile, nimble, flexible, courageous and at the same time visionary and attuned to developments in the world of business whilst anticipating your customer needs and responding to the greater society in an era of rapid globalization. It is important to remember that to have any impact on the market you must to be a major player, else the future will not be kind to you. I am sure BT Options and Business Today will continue to recognize, encourage and promote corporate excellence in Sri Lanka and celebrate your success in the years to follow.

Finally, I wish you all the best and thank you for your kind attention.

 

Harry Jayawardena, Chairman, Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka

I must thank BT Options, Mr Parthipan and his wife for continuing this great noble duty in recognising all the Sri Lankan entrepreneurs as well as all leading business magnates in Sri Lanka. I believe that it was your idea a long time ago, to give them pride of place. We are really proud today to attain this number one position although we should be able to now give this position to somebody else as it is thoroughly unfair that we continue to hold on to it.

The Prime Minister has given us a very encouraging speech. He has given us a lot of infusion, determination and encouragement to think far beyond. Going global is what I would like to talk about today.

In the late 50's, I attended a conference in Singapore where a Chinese gentlemen got on to the podium and said they were looking at Sri Lanka for the development of the civil and port industries. Constant strikes, blackouts, and problems faced by the then decision makers in Singapore, compelled them to start going to work here. We should have done it in Singapore itself - they should have given us the agreements and they should have built up a very strong shipping community. In spite of the fact that we had a favourable location. At that time, the late 50's Sri Lanka was much afraid of Singapore so this is one opportunity we lost. The second opportunity we lost is at the time of Hong Kong being handed back to mainland China. Unfortunately the decision makers over here did not take much notice, nor did the respective organisations pay much attention and that's an opportunity also lost. They went to Canada, they came to India, they came to Singapore, Malayasia. All these people who wanted to migrate and take their businesses ended up in our neighbouring countries.

The third opportunity that we lost. In 1977, when the economy was liberalised, India was not so developed, the open economy, Pakistan and the SAARC countries. That time too, our decision makers, and our people who were responsible to woo these investors here did not make much headway, they were quite satisfied with some of the industries that we got. We have a lot of talent in Sri Lanka, that is why today whatever the working class has gone abroad they are remitting over US$ 3 billion to Sri Lanka. This itself is keeping us afloat with these high coal prices.

Thanks to the hard work of the Minister of Defence, we have peace. But still the traveller has this problem of getting their travel advisories to reduce their premiums. Unfortunately all those advisories have been lifted, the industry will not get benefited, but all these people have booked their travel in advance and we are only coming to the next season, the next season only, our hoteliers will be able to sell their hotel rooms here. One of our groups, the Aitken Spence group, we should not be remembered as one sector and we tried to open up. This is what Mr. Mathi's colleague said that we think global. We thought big and we went global that paid dividends. We went to India, we went to the Maldive Islands, we are looking at other areas and some other sectors are being commissioned. They will be coming into production. We have a lot of entrepreneurs here. The Prime Minister spoke of all the difficulties he has faced and I'm sure most of the other entrepreneurs also face similar difficulties. I think it's high time that you pick their brains and find out what they can give or the advice to the government. We have here all the leaders who I think are contributing more than 50% to the national budget. And they are clever or they wouldn't be here. And Mr. Mathi wont bring them to the Top 10. Now venerable thero has given some noble advice and we should be able to heed that advice and put it to implementation. I have been in close contact with him, we try to support him as much as possible, why? because he is doing a service. Similarly, the speakers who are here, I know most of the people when I look at their faces that they are encouraged and some of them have gone global. With the trading agreements as the Prime Minister has pointed out, we are in a favourable situation but unfortunately the three million, I do not know how much are doing exactly the work that they have to do.

I'm personally aware that there are obstacles that some of the entrepreneurs here are facing. If you take off these road blocks Mr Prime Minister, I'm sure you can get much more foreign exchange. Even though oil goes to US$ 100, it does not matter, for you will have enough money in the country to track with the VAT. With this mixed economy I don't think that you can control minds. Look at the milk production. For the last 50 - 60 years we have neglected this. Today the consumer is completely dissatisfied. Look at the building industry. The prices have escalated. All our workers have gone out to other neighbouring and gulf countries. We can refrain them. We can pay them more, provided that more entrepreneurs, not only here, but even those who have invested abroad in so many other countries. In the late 50s and 60s, the Middle East had no free trade zones, but today our free trade zones do not offer much incentive for the investors to come. Look at the other incentives that the other free trade zones are offering. We'd like to match or even offer better than our neighbours are offering. If you continue with the same stride, I don't see your Excellency the Prime Minister that we can see the daylight. We have to change the policies. We have to think what the other countries are doing. Look at Vietnam. The people who started bombing Vietnam are today the biggest investors there. This was very recent. Analyse this. We have better job appeal. Within a few hours we can come here. To take even a factory in Nuwara Eliya, it takes only four to five hours if transportation is developed. We are still not able to do the infrastructure development, but I'm sure the entrepreneurs can tell the private sector this is your job. Recently I went with the President and his delegation to the Maldive islands.

I went with him in the 1970's. He himself was surprised to see the development in Maldive islands. In one of the conferences and meetings we had, the Minister of Finance had said we are surrounded by sea but we could not use it to benefit the people of Maldive Islands - only 200,000 people. Today the second largest economy, the second largest foreign exchange earner - in a matter of few years, making use of the surrounding sea. These are matters that one has to look into. These are areas in which one has to think big. You have to think big to become big. Unfortunately, whatever the good work we do we have negative publicity. Even the liberation of the north and the east, we have developed negative publicity. With that the entire business world changed. They know that the Sri Lankan army and the Sri Lankan forces, they can restore peace and then you will have this country flourish with lots of opportunities. Look at Libya. I returned recently from Libya is the second largest oil producer in the world. They are making as much as 20 million barrels every day. Today The President of Libya, Mr. Gadaffi, has opened up. Look at the country. It is such a large country with a large population and with a massive income. Why? So we have to take a lesson from this. With all the money they could not develop. Now they are going in for development. So these are areas, honourable ministers, honourable Prime Minister. Have a dialogue with these gentlemen, get their ideas into your directory and find out what they have to say.

Look at my own company, 13 years ago it was only a government department and you could not make it into a corporation thinking, it will be better. We did not lose opportunities, we took every catch given to us. Maybe one or two would have slipped, but never the less by and large we managed to get the good catches and it has paid dividends. This is an encouragement for new investors. Don't have any sympathy or any sorrow in saying that we have this obstacle or we have this problem. We have to overcome these problems because without problems there will not be life. This is my advice and I am sure that next time I will not be the number one but make somebody else. Let me also thank my customers. If not for my customers and my staff and my colleagues who are here, I would not be able to attain this position. For the last seven or eigth years, we have been with Top 10, but it is they who brought me here. They who brought this company up to this position. The full mark, full glory, full pride and full blessings should go to them and I'm sure they will be inspired to do better in the coming years. Thank you very much for your attention.

Asoka Weerasinghe de Silva, Chairman, SLT

I presume it is my duty to keep the business community informed of achievements of the recent past of Sri Lanka Telecom. I am extremely pleased to be here today representing Sri Lanka Telecom, which has been ranked Number two in the Top 10 listing of corporates by Business Today, the most prestigious business magazine in Sri Lanka.

I am proud that Sri Lanka Telecom earned this ranking from such an impressive ranking system; which goes beyond financial performances. Sri Lanka Telecom entered the privileged Business Today's Top 10 club last year. A big thank you to the many executives, managerial staff along with all employees and the leadership of the CEO and the Board of Directors for making Sri Lanka Telecom what it is today.

Sri Lanka Telecom has come a long way for it to achieve what it has today. Beginning as a government department, then a state corporation, today Sri Lanka Telecom has undergone a massive transformation in terms of ownership and provision of services, with its privatisation and listing on the Colombo Stock Exchange.

Sri Lanka Telecom's IPO in 2002 was quite successful and the international bonds listed in the Singapore Stock Exchange in 2004, which generated US$ 100 mn, too was a landmark success for the company. The company was also awarded an AAA (sri) rating by Fitch Ratings Lanka followed by a B+ international rating by Fitch International and Standard and Poor's. Sri Lanka Telecom was ranked as the number one company listed in the Colombo Stock Exchange in 2004. A company, which was only known for providing basic voice telephony today has become the country's flagship total communication services provider in voice, data and networking solutions most of which are based on IP technologies.

Sri Lanka Telecom is one of the country's most vital utility companies with an annual turnover in excess of Rs 40 bn. The group company has a customer base of over 1.5 mn including MNCs, large and small companies, retail and domestic customers.

More importantly, we at Sri Lanka Telecom take great pride in being an indispensable player in the Sri Lankan nation's economy building exercise. Being the only tax paying Telecom Company, I am pleased to mention that Sri Lanka Telecom has contributed over Rs 55 bn to the Sri Lankan economy in the form of taxes over a period of the past 10 years. i.e. during Sri Lanka Telecom's privatised life. Sri Lanka Telecom has also brought over Rs 69 bn worth of foreign exchange to our country during the same period.

Acquisition of the balance equity in Mobitel gave us tremendous strength to become the only communication provider who offers total solutions including mobile communication services Today we at Sri Lanka Telecom are evolving our core network to a Next Generation Network, which will be capable of offering multiple services and multiple access, this is a new chapter in the south Asian telecommunication story.

Our fully owned mobile company Mobitel shows a steady growth both in infrastructure development and its services offering. While the right technology differentiates Mobitel from others, we are confident that its unmatched value added services will generate solid revenues to the Sri Lanka Telecom group in times to come.

Being a member of the Business Today's TOP 10 club is something we consider an honour not only to the company but also to all the stakeholders. This I believe is a promise to all our stakeholders: shareholders, customers and employees – the triple pillars of our success.

I take this opportunity to thank and congratulate Mathi K Parthipan, Managing Director of Business Today and the management and staff of Business Today on their initiative of setting benchmarks in whatever they do. My congratulations also go to the other nine members of the Business Today Top 10.

Dr Hans Wijayasuriya, CEO, Dialog Telekom

First of all on behalf of the Board of Directors of Dialog Telekom we extend our sincere thanks for recognising Dialog's contribution. We stand humbled and honoured to be among the Top 10 of Business Today. Looking back, Dialog set out on a journey to transform what was a luxury item, the mobile phone and to adopt an inclusive approach in taking modern digital telecommunications to the furthest points of Sri Lanka. This inclusive approach has today resulted in the Dialog story featuring not any of us here but four million consumers. Out of those four million consumers, 80% spend less than Rs 400 a month, 60% spend less than Rs 200 a month and an astounding 32% spend less than Rs 100 a month.

This award does not go to Dialog, or to our shareholders but I think, that it goes to our consumers. There is an important lesson we can all learn and that is the power of the Sri Lankan consumer.

We talked about our intellectual resources, our labour, our manpower, we talk about many other factors, but we still do not talk about the Sri Lankan consumer.

Because collectively the Sri Lankan consumer forms a very powerful domestic market and this domestic market through the Dialog story has shown that we can create the largest market capitalised company on the Colombo Stock Exchange.

These four million people collectively have also made us the most profitable company on the Colombo Stock Exchange and have also driven the highest re-investment ratio seen in Sri Lanka in the form of a 140% investment on profit, year on year. Dialog and many other stakeholders in this industry have together created an environment where other products and services tend to go up in price, while telecom services come down in price.

I'm extremely proud to stand here on behalf of the 25,000 shareholders led by Telekom Malaysia who have made this story possible. Thank you Business Today for recognising this story and for recognising the power of the domestic market. If we realise this power we don't need to worry about other factors because we have the basic confidence that Sri Lanka is a great destination for investment, growth and profitability.

Ajith Goonawardena, Deputy Chairman, John Keells Holdings

John Keells Holdings is honoured to be ranked in the Business Today Top 10 for 2005/06. This recognition is a reflection of our commitment to growth and value creation for all our stakeholders. Awards like this are a great encouragement for the JKH team and reinforce our resolve to deliver even higher returns to our stakeholders while fulfilling the role of a responsible corporate citizen.  At JKH, our endeavour has always been to maximize shareholder value on a sustained basis while being at the forefront of global best practices. On behalf of JKH, I take the opportunity to thank Business Today for this recognition. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amitha Gooneratne, Managing Director, Commercial Bank

We are extremely happy and delighted to be placed among the Business Today – Top 10 Companies, a status we have enjoyed since this selection process started in 1997.

We were even nominated as the No 1 Company in 2002 and the fact that the best companies keep changing their rankings every year, is in a way a good indicator of the vibrancy of our economy and it's corporate sector.

If I were to say something about the bank, we have been particularly successful in keeping the seemingly complicated business of banking simple and straight-forward. As the leading private sector bank in this country, we have always maintained a strong commitment towards safeguarding the interests of the depositors whilst at the same time ensuring an adequate return to the shareholders who provide the capital and providing a happy and a contended working environment for our staff that play a critical role serving the all important customer. Even at a considerable expense, we have continued to maintain and also extend our banking network to the under-developed areas of this country thereby bringing our high quality online real time banking services even to the remote areas, speeding up the development process.

The strong growth we have shown in our revenues, assets, market capitalization and of course the high ethical standards maintained in all our business dealings is the direct result of this "all stake holder" commitment we have always displayed.

In addition to this nomination, we have been repeatedly adjudged as "The Best Bank in Sri Lanka" by many prestigious international financial publications such as the Global Finance, The Banker and most recently by the Euromoney.

I take this opportunity to thank all our stakeholders for their contributions that enabled us to earn all these awards and accolades. A special word of thanks to our Board of Directors and our Chairman, Mahendra Amarasuriya for the guidance and support given to us at all times.

If I were to strike a personal note, it is my view that, whilst recognizing tangible areas such as turnovers, profits and financial ratios etc. it is also necessary to give a greater weightage to the observance of high ethical business standards and honesty when assessing companies for national awards of this nature. I also take this opportunity to thank Mr Parthipan and his team at Business Today for having undertaken and successfully completed the process of evaluating the top companies of this country.

R Theagarajah, Managing Director/CEO, Hatton National Bank

H atton National Bank is privileged to be recognised as a recipient in the Business Today Top 10 Awards and is humbled by the great honour to be in the presence of elite of companies operating in Sri Lanka.

HNB has a track record of providing Sustainable Value to the Sri Lankan Economy. We pioneered lending to the micro finance sector amongst private sector banks, hitherto to the non bankable community due to lack of collateral. Through our Gami Pubuduwa program, over 70,000 rural entrepreneurs have benefited over the last 18 years. The trickle down effects to society in the form of employment, development of skills and crafts and foreign exchange earnings have been tremendous. This program has given the opportunity for a large number of talented people to move out of the poverty trap with dignity. The success of this initiative has encouraged a number of other institutions to enter this market which is great. Our extremely popular Pathum Vimana Savings Product has played a significant role in inculcating the savings habit among rural folk. We have touched lives of the rural community through our social responsibility initiatives, most recently building 100 libraries for village schools through the Nana Pubudu scheme. We have very strong links with our Expatriate Community having a lion share of the foreign exchange remittance inflows. Today we have 162 customer centres, spread across the country from Tissamaharama to Jaffna and Chilaw to Batticaloa serving a customer base exceeding 2 million across sectors and segments of our country, through a wide array of banking products and services that have a meaningful impact on their lives.

The relentless focus on business results which in turn directly contributes to societal development across the country has won us several accolades. The Business Today rankings, one of the most respected benchmarks for Corporates in Sri Lanka, has honoured HNB on eight occasions during the past 11 years which speaks volumes for the consistency in performance. Being awarded the Sri Lankan Bank of the year in 2006 by the prestigious Banker Magazine in the UK, recognised by LMD as the third most valuable Brand in Sri Lanka and awarded a Merit at the ACCA Sustainability reporting Awards are some of the other recognitions accorded to us last year. These awards serve to recognise the contribution made by the Hatna Team and propels us strive to even greater heights.

When reviewing the future, the question can be asked if we have been able to achieve so much in an uncertain economic environment, what could be achieved is peace is restored to the length and breadth of this country? Besides the obvious implications of war – escalating interest rates, inflation and the growing inequality of income, the significantly increasing brain drain is a serious concern for the future. People have and will always be our most valuable resource, we cannot afford this trend to continue as the country's future is at stake. As a member of the business community we would like to re-iterate our wish for all avenues to be pursued for peace to be restored in our country.

HNB has always been a resilient bank, and will continue to look to the future with confidence and optimism. We will continue to do what we do well even better but would like to single out 5 strategic priority areas.

1. Focus on SME Segment for Exponential Growth. HNB is well placed with possibly the best distribution network across the country and product capabilities to proactively leverage on emerging opportunities in the SME and Micro Finance Sector.

2. Relentlessly drive for Improved Asset Quality. The focus will be on investing and creating a healthy Risk Management Philosophy with the optimal Risk / Return trade off. As the bank with the largest asset base among Private Commercial Banks in Sri Lanka we will continue to identify selective segments locally and overseas that have the best asset yields commensurate to risk.

3. Drive for Productivity and Economies of Scale through Centralised Procurement, Shared Services and Business Process Re-Engineering initiatives. The bank will emerge leaner, faster and more efficient as a result of these initiatives.

4. A passionate and empowered team of associates. Our employees have and will continue to be the cornerstone of our success. We are committed to reviewing our Structure, Processes and Incentive Systems in the light of world class best practices to make HNB the best place to work.

5. Investing in Leading Edge Technology. We recognise that achieving all of the above requires a solid I.T platform that will be able to deliver faster response times to our customers through an integrated linkage to all our delivery channels. We are committed to being a fore-runner in driving our business using state of the art Risk Management and Decision Support Systems.

Our sustainable performance demonstrates conviction and courage to perform against all odds, the learnings we have achieved in the past will no doubt give us the confidence to exploit the exciting and diverse opportunities the future holds. We are now well poised to take exploit the opportunities presented by Globalisation, Consolidation and Convergence of Financial Services. Much has been achieved, but we are only at the beginning of an exciting journey ahead.

Once again, I would like to commend Business Today for recognising Top Performing Companies in their continuously evolving quest to raise the bar for excellence among Corporates in Sri Lanka.

Mustanfer Ali Khan, MD/CEO, Ceylon Tobacco Company

It gives me great pleasure to accept the award on behalf of Ceylon Tobacco Company for being placed 7th in the Business Today Top 10.

I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka for achieving the number one position and all the other top ten companies for their dedication in setting high standards on an overall basis which has seen them being placed as the forerunner in business excellence in Sri Lanka.

In fact the Business Today magazine reports that CTC is the only manufacturing company that has continuously found a place on the Business Today Top 10 since inception ten years ago, mainly due to its high performance standards and commitment to excellence. We are proud to be consistently rated so highly. If I may quote the magazine, it reads –"For a company that is always held in the public eye and subjected to severe pressure from public lobbyists and activists CTC has done well to weather the pressure and demonstrate good conduct through its commitment to good corporate governance and sincere corporate social responsibility".

We are indeed appreciative that our efforts in all aspects of our business have been acknowledged. Our outstanding performance has been driven by its people. Ceylon Tobacco nurtures an innovative culture where people are encouraged to constantly challenge the status quo. Our employees therefore persistently challenge and redefine boundaries, employing best practices at all times, and adopting the highest principles & ethics towards a responsible corporate way of life.

We have been placed number one in the 'Value Addition' section yet again! This highlights and re-iterates CTC's investment in its people and the operational excellence achieved through this. Of course we are being helped in this respect by the quality of our people. The success achieved by CTC, whilst being in a controversial industry and always under scrutiny, is due to the excellence of our people across all levels. We invest in their training and involve them fully in our transparent and challenging corporate culture.

In this respect I am proud to say that 17 of our managers are currently working on secondments in various parts of the world in senior key roles. This shows the talent Sri Lanka has as a nation and how CTC & BAT profits from that pool of talent, both at a national and international level.

Our support to ensuring the quality of our people extends further to uplifting the lives of the poorest of the poor in Sri Lanka and CTC is justifiably proud of its corporate responsibility programmes. We as a company have embraced many sustainable projects which undoubtedly will help develop this nation. Our most ambitious project being the SADP(Sustainable Agricultural Development Programme) inline with the government's poverty alleviation programme has enriched many lives - of those living below the poverty line. Some of our key government officials present here today have seen the results of this project and what it is capable of achieving for Sri Lanka. The intention being to move the rural masses out of the poverty line, earning them a sustainable income through their own efforts by adopting a simple process. The programme aims to resuscitate their nutrition levels, whilst ensuring a steady income and enabling them to secure a better future for their children. Today we have over one thousand two hundred families fully integrated in the programme. Our effort in this project has borne fruit. However CTC alone can only reach out to few of the affected and make a change in their lives. Therefore we welcome other companies to adopt this model so that we can truly make a change at a national level! In conclusion I would like to state that today CTC stands as one of the best business entities in the country & in the British American Tobacco World. We will continue meeting all stakeholder expectations and inspiring and assisting others to accomplish corporate excellence.

I would like to thank the organisers of this event, BT Options for making it possible for the top companies of Sri Lanka to be recognised for their achievements and for being able to gather together at a prestigious event such as this.

Tilak de Zoysa, Chairman, The Bukit Darah

Bukit Darah Company commenced business operations in 1960 as a company incorporated through Ceylon, Sri Lanka. Listed on the stock exchange that increased the trend, as a precursor to the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) since its incorporation. This year the company completed 91 years. The company has had in its modest history, in buying plantation companies that targeted a growth of rubber plantations and later we planted oil palm.

Bukit Darah has positioned itself to be a strong corporate facility with significant shareholder value through interest in carbon. Over the years, the group has prospered by regional expansion through a lucrative regional oil palm industry and other group interests that covers predominantly the exposure to the beverages, financial services and capital market industries.

On behalf of the Bukit Darah Company, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the employees for their unstinted commitment to professionalism,in delivering their work obligations for all businesses of the group's operations. It is with pleasure and sincerity that I accept this prestigious award on behalf of the board of the Bukit Darah company. I take this opportunity to convey to His Excellency, the honourable Prime Minister, to the organisers the Business Today magazine, the company's gratitude for positioning ourselves to be a recipient of this prestigious award.

Richard Ebell, Director, Hayleys Group

I am pleased to represent Hayleys today and to receive this award that is being given to us. My colleagues and I are mindful that the recent past has been a trying period for our group, which is largely into manufacturing and other agricultural related activities, both of which are important for the growth of the Sri Lankan economy.

Our route is different in that we are the only entity engaging in this economic activity among the Top 10 companies being recognised today. It is perhaps significant that we are number ten among these companies.

Exchange rates have not until recently been counted as a substantial impact that cost increases have had on value added exports. Large budget deficits have resulted in high taxation. Please be mindful that these concerns are for a group, which is over 130 years old, which employs over 30,000 Sri Lankan's and which brings the country foreign exchange earnings of Rs 20 bn per annum. We appeal to the government and we take this opportunity to do that, to take note of these things, in the interest of the country and its economic progress.

 

 

Personalities at the Business Today Top 10
Many members of state, business leaders and distinguished guests were in attendance at the Business Today Top 10 awards ceremony.