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Plans underway for BDO Investment Roadshow in China

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BDO Sri Lanka has partnered OSL Global Ltd. to create a unique platform for Sri Lankan entrepreneurs and project owners to showcase their businesses or projects to overseas investors looking for outbound investment opportunities. 

The Sino Lanka Investment Conference 2018 (SLIC 2018) will be the first of such investment forums to be held in Shanghai, China in quarter 3, 2018. The BDO counterpart in China, BDO LLP Shanghai, has undertaken to host this forum and will act as the primary office for those investors to identify suitable projects and commence interacting directly with the project owners in Sri Lanka through BDO Sri Lanka.

In order to make this a reality, a team from BDO Sri Lanka visited China during April 2018, to discuss the program with BDO China and agree on a way forward. BDO Sri Lanka Managing Partner Sujeewa Rajapakse led this delegation for discussions.

The Daily FT spoke to Rajapakse about the progress made during these discussions. The following are excerpts of the interview.

Q: How successful was your visit to China and the commitment of your Chinese counterparts to SLIC 2018?

A: It was an extremely successful visit from a commitment perspective. My counterpart in China, Tom Lin, Senior Partner of BDO China, agreed to fully support this initiative. China as you know gets a lot of invitations to such events and investments. However, it is our prerogative to market Sri Lanka and attract the right investors to the country.

Q: How do your professional colleagues in China perceive Sri Lanka as an investment destination?

A: From an acceptance perspective, they perceive Sri Lanka as a favourable investment destination. This position has been strengthened in recent times with the Silk Road initiative launched by the Chinese Government. Sri Lanka is situated within the ‘String of Pearls’ and is looked upon as a strategic location in their One Belt One Road program. 

Q: Based on the discussions you had, what project opportunities do you anticipate the Chinese investors being attracted to?

A: The Chinese investment strategy is expected to revolve around the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative of their Government. Most attractive sectors for outbound investors will be those that are associated with the OBOR strategy such as power and energy, logistics, export-oriented businesses, food and beverages, technology-based industries, passenger transportation, manufacturing and major infrastructure.

Q: How have you progressed with the preparatory work locally towards staging the first SLIC roadshow?

A: We have made tremendous progress locally. BDO entered into a Framework Agreement in February 2018 with OSL Global Ltd, a premiere investment promotion entity in the country, to be followed by the Bipartite Agreement between BDO China and BDO Sri Lanka. 

Locally, we have appointed a Program Director and set up a Joint Steering Committee to drive the preparatory work. We have also brought in a Chinese national who is an investment promoter and a lawyer to be a part of the project steering committee.  

Having established the framework, we are now in the process of building the Project Pipeline. We aim to build a pipeline of marketable and investible projects to be showcased through the SLIC 2018 platform.

Q: Today we see many investment promotions where Sri Lanka is promoted overseas for investments. How do you differentiate SLIC from other programs?

A: This is an important point of differentiation. Most investment promotion forums present the investment opportunities to potential investors at the event itself and try to generate interest. 

The unique feature of SLIC is that the planned conference in Shanghai will be a forum where we will be entering into MOUs with more serious investors who have identified suitable opportunities upfront. To enable this, we will be sharing the Project Information Memorandums (IMs) and project feasibilities with BDO China to shortlist those investors who are interested in specific projects in the buildup phase to the event. 

BDO being an international network, there is a greater connection between its member firms, which creates a greater opportunity for us to approach the correct investor and to have a direct dialogue with the parties. 

Q: One of the major concerns for many foreign investors has been the project implementation phase where local systems and procedures have been quite exhausting and frustrating. How will SLIC address this issue and create a conducive climate for investors to operate in Sri Lanka?

A: This is one of the Unique Selling Propositions of SLIC. BDO and our strategic partner OSL Global has the capability and capacity to assist in local implantation. 

BDO and OSL will provide this as a value-added service, where they will obtain all government approvals required for the project to take off within a reasonable period of time.

Q: The majority of projects in Sri Lanka are real estate-based. Will you be interested in these as well?

A: Yes of course. Even though there are some restrictions on investing in real estate projects, we are confident that we can market these projects on a case-by-case basis. 

I would also like to highlight the fact that SLIC will be an ongoing forum and we will market Sri Lanka at other major investment destinations. Hence, we are in a position to promote these projects in other countries as well. 

Q: How can a potential project owner who reads this interview get in touch with SLIC to use your services to find an investor for his venture?

A: Our Program Director is the first point of contact for SLIC. Those who are seeking foreign investments for their projects can write to info@slic2018.org directly and obtain guidance from the project office. Once we have basic project information, we will evaluate the project for potential marketability and engage the project owner immediately to take it forward.

Q: What is the long-term vision of SLIC?

A: SLIC’s vision is to put Sri Lanka on the global investment map and attract stable investors to Sri Lanka. This country has great potential and we believe it is time for the private sector to step up to this challenge and do the hard yards, to act as the catalyst of this change, to truly make Sri Lanka the Wonder of Asia. 

Q: How realistic and achievable is your vision?

A: If one looks back at Sri Lanka’s economic performance, we have always been a country which has demonstrated great resilience in the face of global adversity. Therefore, we have no doubt about our country’s potential. It is now up to us as a country to work towards realising the full potential of this great nation.

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