Investment Forum in Tokyo woos Japanese investors

Friday, 9 December 2011 01:28 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Around 100 attend New World Securities event; Ambassador Karannagoda and Lankan  firms highlight post-war rebound and potential

Nisthar Cassim reporting from Tokyo

December 8: Around 100 Japanese firms and investors today got a thorough update on post-war Sri Lanka’s rebound and unprecedented opportunities at an Investment Forum organised in Tokyo by New World Securities.

Held at Tokyo’s popular business venue Belle Salle Roppingi from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., the well-attended Sri Lanka Investment Forum highlighted the immediate dividends following the end of terrorism as well as vast opportunities for trade, investments and tourism for Japanese companies.

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Japan Retd. Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda was the Chief Guest, who gave an overview of strong Sri Lanka Japan bilateral ties as well as the defeat of terrorism in Sri Lanka two years ago and the country’s rapid progress since then, along with future plans to develop socioeconomic infrastructure.

Nearly 10 companies made short presentations on recent progress and future plans enticing Japanese firms and high net worth individuals to consider the companies and Sri Lanka as an attractive investment proposition.

The companies which made presentations were the Japanese investors-controlled New World Securities, Nawaloka Holdings Ltd., Royal Ceramics Plc, PABC Bank Plc, Panasian Power Plc, Colombo Land and Development Plc, Ceybank Asset Management Ltd. and Ideal Motors Ltd., whilst destination Sri Lanka was promoted by SriLankan Airlines as well as Serendipity Club in Japan via audio visual presentations.    

Japanese biotech firm Mebiopharm, which on Wednesday struck a groundbreaking joint venture with Nawaloka Holdings, also made its case as to why it picked Sri Lanka for its new venture to do clinical trials, new drug development and pharmaceutical manufacturing.

Ambassador Karannagoda noted that though Sri Lanka and Japan would be celebrating 60 years of diplomatic ties in 2012, links between the two could be traced to the early 18th century, starting with religious visits.

He said that political and cultural ties gathered momentum especially after the famous speech by late President J.R. Jayewardene in 1951 in San Francisco, coming forward as a friend for Japan when the latter was under international pressure over alleged war crimes. A year later diplomatic ties between the two countries were established.

“Strong affection between Sri Lanka and Japan was inspired by Buddhism and today ties have encompassed politics, culture, humanity and economy of both countries,” Admiral Karannagoda added.

Sri Lanka’s recent economic success especially since the end of terrorism was emphasised by the Ambassador. Among key pointers shared by him were that Sri Lanka was now one of the safest places in the world for investments, business and tourism, a vibrant and stable democracy, 8% economic growth, home to one of Asia’s best performing stock markets, rise in Ease of Doing Business Index and World Competitiveness Ranking and fast emerging as the most voted holiday destination.

For the latter, he cited Sri Lanka being picked by New York Times, National Geography and more recently its Traveller Magazine.

Keen interest by global hotel brands such as Shangri La, Sheraton and Four Seasons was also highlighted, along with the growing number of Japanese tourists to Sri Lanka.  

Focusing on specific experiences of existing Japanese investors, the Lankan Ambassador said Noritake, which was one of the pioneering Japanese firms, had expanded to two plants, whilst plans were afoot to set up another whilst it had scaled down or closed manufacturing plants in Indonesia and Malaysia.

“This shows the confidence Japanese companies have in Sri Lanka,” he said, adding that sound macroeconomic fundamentals, skilled labour, quality craftsmanship and trust were hallmarks of Sri Lanka vis-à-vis other locations in South Asia.

He also touched on new vistas in the maritime and shipping sector with the development of the Hambantota Port and expansion of the Colombo Port whereby Sri Lanka was further harnessing its strategic location midst busy sea lanes.

Japanese investor Takashi Igarashi, who together with his associates own 80% of New World Securities, gave a passionate recount of his own positive experience on investing in Sri Lanka as well as the country’s inherent potential. He identified financial services, tourism, IT and manufacturing with a focus on large South Asian markets as high growth sectors with ample opportunities.

Among those who spoke from the private sector delegation were New World Securities CEO Viraj Malawana, PABC Bank Deputy Chairman and Royal Ceramics Managing Director Nimal Perera, Nawaloka Holdings Director Harshith Dharmadasa, Ideal Motors Chairman Nalin Welgama, Panasian Power Director Rifky Badurdeen, Ceybank Asset Management CEO Chitra Sathkumara and Fund Manager Ian Ferdinands, whilst Mebiopharm President and CEO Tadashi Fujisawa also spoke.

Apart from presentations by these companies on Thursday at the Investor Forum, New World Securities is also promoting portfolio investments in shares in listed companies such as JKH, Hayleys, Dialog, Commercial Bank, HNB, Sampath Bank and People’s Leasing.

Participants at the forum included Japanese companies, fund managers and high net worth individuals. SriLankan Airlines gave a return ticket to Sri Lanka for a lucky winner of the business card draw.

Today there will be one-to-one business meetings as well as a Sri Lanka reception. Japan’s a2Media Corporation, a related party to New World Securities Chairman Igarashi, coordinated the event, which also had support from the Sri Lanka Embassy.

The visiting Lankan delegation on Wednesday visited the Tokyo Stock Exchange, received a presentation on stock market listing by Tokyo AIM (Alternative Investment Market) and met CEO and President of Phillip Securities in Tokyo. On Wednesday Ambassador Karannagoda hosted the Lankan delegation for dinner at his residence.

New World Securities (NWS) is owned 80% by Japanese investors and spearheaded by Japan’s a2Media Corporation with Chairman being Takashi Igarashi, 15% by Sri Lankan investors (South Asia Financial Excellence Investments Ltd. – SAFE 10% and Aravinda de Silva 5% and 5% by an Indian investor.

The initiative by NWS had been planned a few months back but is being held hot on the heels of President Mahinda Rajapaksa a fortnight ago urging stock brokers to go overseas and promote post-war Sri Lanka to draw more foreign investment. However, there were no representatives from the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) though invited.

The Board of Directors of New World Securities comprises T. Igarashi (Chairman), Ono Teruaki (Deputy Chairman), Viraj Malawana (Director/CEO), Aravinda de Silva, Sandeep M. Bhammer, Mangala Boyagoda, A.G. Weerasinghe and Jaliya Wijeratne.

Some of the participants

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Japan Retd. Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda (third from left) along with First Secretary (Commercial) M. Somasena (left)  and New World Securities Chairman Takashi Igarashi (second from left)  at the forum

Representatives of the Sri Lankan delegation and executives of New World Securities at the forum in Tokyo along with event coordinator, a2Media Corporation of Japan