Sri Lanka’s capital market garners overwhelming interest in New York

Tuesday, 9 September 2014 01:49 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) hosted ‘Invest Sri Lanka – Investor Forum’ in New York last week received an unprecedented response from the investor community in New York with over 220 participants attending the forum and meeting with companies listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange. The event, held at the J.W. Marriot Essex House Hotel in New York City on 4 September, in association with the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington D.C. and event partners Bloomberg and ACHAM Sri Lanka; provided fund managers with over $ 100 million under their management, a plethora of information on the merits of investing in the Sri Lankan capital market. An exceptional feature of the Forum was the remarkable endorsements of the Sri Lankan capital market by Ruchir Sharma, Head of Emerging Markets from Morgan Stanley Investment Management, Michael O’Hanlon, Senior Advisor at TPG Capital and Stephen Jonathan FX Application Specialist at Bloomberg.                   The program featured an overview of the Sri Lankan economy and the prospects for the future, in the economic outlook presentation made by Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal. This was followed by the key note address delivered by Senior Minister of International Monetary Cooperation and Deputy Minister of Finance and Planning Dr. Sarath Amunugama, who touched on the social and political developments in Sri Lanka which would make it a more attractive central position for regional commerce in the South Asian region. To further edify the audience, Vajira Kulatilaka Chairman of the Colombo Stock Exchange, made an informative presentation on the opportunities in the Sri Lankan capital market. Sri Lankan Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Dr. Palitha Kohona made the welcome address. “An easy place to locate in” The key note address was followed by an interactive panel discussion with Minister Sarath Amunugama, Deputy Minister for Investment Promotion Faiszer Musthapha, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka at the United Nations in New York Dr. Palitha Kohona, SEC Chairman Dr. Nalaka Godahewa and CSE Chairman Vajira Kulatilaka. Dr. Palitha Kohona in his welcome address noted the value of Sri Lanka as a regional hub to the rest of South Asia: “Today Sri Lanka is very well connected to the rest of the world, our air services are excellent. We are also an excellent place from which to access India, it is also important to note that Sri Lanka is one of the very few countries which have a free trade agreement with India, we also have a free trade agreement with Pakistan and another is being negotiated with China. Furthermore, anyone who has been to Sri Lanka will tell you that it is an easy place to locate in, it does not have the huge bureaucracy that some of our neighbours have.” “Sri Lanka as an up and coming member of the Frontier Market Universe is starting to get a lot of attention,” Stephen Jonathan from Bloomberg said. “After the end of the war, we began this forward march knowing very well that the development of the Sri Lankan economy depended very much on the development of the capital market. Therefore, we employed a globally reputed company to do a strategic study for us and we are now implementing the recommendations from that study. The areas being reviewed and improved are; IT infrastructure development, regulation, new instruments, knowledge building and awareness building,” CSE Chairman Vajira Kulatilaka said. “Investors are very keen to get new leadership in different places, because the old model seems tiered. If you look at the historical template what we tend to see is that markets tend to do very well in the first term of a new leader. In Sri Lanka’s case we know that the political leadership has done a very solid job of turning the economy around, of making it a very attractive investment destination,” Ruchir Sharma from Morgan Stanley said. “We have gone into many other countries, what we found in Sri Lanka is that the regulators were both commercial and accessible. The places where we had the greatest success have been the places where we have been in partnership with the regulators; particularly the banking regulators and the securities regulators, because we can work with them to bring the banks and the other financial regulators forward,” Michael O’Hanlon from TPG Capital said. “Adventurous and interesting future” “We are embarking on a fairly adventurous and interesting future. In the past eight years we have transitioned from a conflict driven country to a politically and socially stable one which has been an extraordinary movement. If you look at our economy, the GDP growth has been at 7.5% which has been extraordinary and it is not easy to maintain that, unless you have a trajectory that is planned for the future,” Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Governor of the Central Bank said. “When you think of Investment, you want a peaceful environment in which you can take rational decisions; you can invest and make money. That is a big advantage we have in Sri Lanka; terrorism has been comprehensively defeated and the country is at peace,” stated Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Senior Minister for International Monetary Cooperation, and Deputy Minister of Finance and Planning. “The Sri Lankan capital market is a growing market, and most importantly we have a very strong corporate culture. If you look at our listed companies and a number of unlisted companies who hope to list in the near future, they have a strong sense of corporate governance. The Securities and Exchange Commission along with the Institute of Chartered Accountants has developed a series of standards, the latest of which was released as recently as 2013. We are constantly looking at the rest of the world and developing standards based on progress that we see globally,” SEC Chairman Dr. Nalaka Godahewa said, during the Panel discussion. “In order to develop investment in the country, we have a one-stop-shop approach, where when an investor comes in and wants to do business in Sri Lanka, we work with the line ministries to get all the approvals they need. In every sector we see great momentum, through the five hub concept,” Minister Faizer Musthapha said.