Tag Archives: Aitken Spence Shipping

Hapag-Lloyd Lanka Walks Away with Best Customer Service Award at 22nd ICS Awards

27 Feb
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Mr. Russell Diaz, Assistant General Manager – Hapag Lloyd Lanka receiving the award

Hapag-Lloyd Lanka (Pvt) Ltd, a subsidiary of Aitken Spence PLC and the local representation of German operator Hapag-Lloyd Kreuzfahrten was awarded the “Best Customer Service” laurel for the Europe sector at the recently concluded awards ceremony organized by the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers – UK (Sri Lanka branch). The win comes following a similar achievement at the previous year’s ceremony, where Hapag-Lloyd Lanka won the award for the US sector.

The ceremony which was held in Colombo on the 19th of February marked the 22nd installment of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers (ICS) awards. The ICS founded in London back in 1911, received the Royal Charter in 1921 and is a body fundamentally dedicated towards the promotion of professionalism in the international maritime industry through shipping education and training.

Fourteen shipping lines vied for the awards and Hapag-Lloyd Lanka walked away with one of the most lucrative awards. On behalf of Hapag-Lloyd Lanka, Russell Diaz, Assistant General Manager – Hapag-Lloyd Lanka received the award from Chief Guest – Hon. Karu Jayasuria, Speaker of Parliament. The ceremony was graced by many dignitaries including Hon. Arjuna Ranatunga, Minister of Ports and Shipping alongside Hon. Eran Wickramaratne, Minister of Public Enterprises and Development.

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Aitken Spence Hosts WACO International Conference in Colombo

3 Dec
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From left to right: Mr. Rohantha Peiris – Managing Director, Aitken Spence Cargo, Mr. Jerome Brohier – Vice President, Aitken Spence Cargo, Waco board members Mr. Shinji Kitamura , Mr. Kristjan Palsson , Mr. Rajan Brito – Deputy Chairman and Managing Director, Aitken Spence PLC, Mr. Thomas Reuter – Waco board member, Mr. Stephen Knight – Chairman,Waco, Mr. Richard Charles – Executive Director,Waco, Mr. Arthur A. Da Silva – Vice Chairman, Waco & Dr. Parakrama Dissanayake – Chairman & CEO Aitken Spence Maritime & Logistics and Director of Aitken Spence PLC.

Aitken Spence Cargo hosted the 83rd General meeting of WACO, the world’s foremost independent global freight management & logistics networkrecently, for the first time in Sri Lanka.

With 64 countries in attendance, the event gives the network global partners the opportunity to meet during the bilateral meetings and discuss future plans and strategies as well as review past initiatives.Aitken Spence Cargo was the host member and is the WACO representative in Sri Lanka since 2002.

An exclusive network consisting of independent freight management companies, Waco was founded in 1973. Its current membership is from 104 countries in over 450 locations employing over 30,000 freight professionals handling over 2 million shipments per year with an annual turnover of USD 4 billion. The company is an association owned by its members with its corporate head office in Zurich and operational management in London.

Aitken Spence Maritime & Logistics Chairman & CEO and Director of Aitken Spence PLC Dr.Parakrama Dissanayake spoke on “Global Container Shipping – Challenges / Trends and Implications on Indian Sub-Continent Transhipment Hubs”, as the keynote speaker.

Members of the Board of WACO led by its Chairman Stephen Knight, at a meeting with Aitken Spence representatives led by its Deputy Chairman and Managing Director J M S Brito discussed opportunities arising from the new government’sagenda for infrastructure development and initiatives in propelling Sri Lanka as a maritime hub.

Aitken Spence is Sri Lanka’s largest integrated logistics services provider. Aitken Spence Cargo is considered as the company that pioneered freight forwarding in the country, now providing total freight and logistics solutions with offices in 15 locations. It has offices in Bangladesh, Maldives and Pakistan. Aitken Spence Cargo represents Qatar Airways Cargo in Sri Lanka, TNT Express in Sri Lanka & Maldives, while also representing SriLankan Airlines Cargo in theMaldives and Bangladesh.

Aitken Spence Brings “Logos Hope” to Sri Lanka Again

25 Sep

“Logos Hope” the World’s largest floating book fair vessel was recently at the Port of Colombo. For over three decades the vessel and its predecessors “Logos” and ‘Doulos’ has been represented in Sri Lanka by Aitken Spence Shipping, a subsidiary of diversified conglomerate Aitken Spence PLC.

Previously in 2011, ‘Mv Logos Hope’ the goodwill passenger cruise liner cum book exhibition vessel created history, when it docked at the Port of Hambantota, as the first ever passenger vessel to call at the Port, while making a stop at the Port of Galle.

“We are honoured to handle Logos Hope in Sri Lanka once again and have been the agents for these vessels since the early 1980s. Logos Hope brings a global message of education and hope to countries across the world and we are truly privileged to be a part of it for three decades”, said Iqram Cuttilan, Vice President of Aitken Spence Shipping.

Aitken Spence Shipping pioneers in the industry represent some of the world’s leading shipping lines and are the first in Sri Lanka to undertake port efficiency enhancement management overseas with its entry into the African continent and then the Pacific. The Company handles all areas of maritime services – from ship agents and cargo handlers, to liner agency, cruise vessel, port management and development, ship owning and chartering services. With the Group’s involvement in the leisure industry, the company is able to offer comprehensive synergised services to cruise operators.

Aitken Spence Shipping is subsidiary of Aitken Spence PLC which is among Sri Lanka’s leading and most respected corporate entities with operations in South Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Pacific. Listed in the Colombo Stock Exchange since 1983, Aitken Spence has major interests in hotels, travel, maritime services, logistics and power generation. The group also has a significant presence in plantations, printing, financial services, insurance, information technology and garments.

“Logos Hope” which arrived on the 29th of August at the port commenced its ‘Book Fair’ open to the public the following day; when it was ceremoniously opened by First Lady Madam Shiranthi Rajapaksa. The ship continued to remain in Colombo till the 23rd of September.

The vessel is staffed by volunteers – around 400 people from about 50 different countries serve with varying contributions. The volunteers live on board managing the overall operations and maintenance of the ship. A multicultural contingent whose purpose is to bring knowledge, help and hope to the people of the world.

Owned and operated by GBA SHIPS – (GuteBücherfürAlle/ Good Books for All) a German based charity organization, the project is initiated as non-profit International Book Fair and Youth Service Project. GBA SHIPS has a longstanding record of welcoming more than 42 million people on board since 1970, and have visited over 150 countries over the years. Logos Hope is currently now their only operational vessel, while it has been the first ship to carry a floating book fair.

 

Logos Hope arrives at the colombo port

PIONEERS IN INNOVATION

17 Aug

Aitken Spence plc is a conglomerate of businesses with a long and distinguished history originating in the trading and insurance industries in Sri Lanka, but now involved in hospitality, tourism and the services industries. Mr Rajan Brito,Managing Director, tells Bob Combes about the group’s impressive level of growth and diversity and its pioneering approach to business.

The company was established in 1868 by two Scotsmen, who came out to Sri Lanka when it was a British colony, and when several British companies were set up around the colonial tea plantation industry. Aitken Spence plc, listed in the Colombo Stock Exchange since 1983, was originally named Clark Spence & Company and commenced business activities 141 years ago in Galle. Mr Brito recounts, “Way back in 1876 we were appointed as agents for Lloyds of London, and we became agents for a number of international shipping agencies shortly afterwards. “The company became an agency for the management of tea and rubber plantations that the British set up in the early 1920s.” Since then, Aitken Spence has enjoyed amazing growth and success, and now employs 5,000 staff in its offices and factories, 2,000 of whom work in hotels, and an additional 10,000 of whom work at its tea plantations. With interests in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa, the company was recognized by Forbes as one of the best companies in Asia, with revenues of just under a billion dollars for three consecutive years.

A wide portfolio

Mr Brito continues, “Our activities and products are divided into four areas: travel and tourism, logistics, services, and strategic investments. Our services include acting as an agent for Western Union money transfer, and as the agent in Sri Lanka for OTIS Elevators. We are also an insurance broker, and we are involved in property management. The strategic investment area includes power generation, printing and packaging, garment manufacturing; and tea and rubber plantations. “Aitken Spence is the leading resort operator in Sri Lanka and the largest international hotel chain in the Maldives. We manage 10 hotels in Sri Lanka, four of these being on the west coast, one on the south coast and the others centrally located. We manage seven hotels in the Maldives, and also five hotels in India and five in Oman, with minority stakes in some of them. Through our management capabilities, nurtured for over three decades, many of the properties in our chain of 27 hotels and resorts have, over the years, won many international accolades, especially for service excellence, environmental management and culinary expertise. Among the accolades we have won, is being listed by the Sunday Times of the UK as one of the best places to stay in the world. We were the first LEED certified hotel in the world, and we have won the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Merit Award, and the RICS Award 2000, conferred by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, London. We were also the first company to have a Green Globe – certified hotel in Asia. “We are able to add great value to our partners by marketing their hotels through our association with over 200 global tour operators. We have represented TUI since the1970s (known as Thomsons in the UK), the world’s largest integrated tourism company and, since 2003, TUI has become a 50:50 joint venture company with us for inbound and outbound travel in Sri Lanka. “In addition, we act as airline GSA (General Sales Agent) for Singapore Airlines, Kingfisher Airlines and Aeroflot and we also hold agencies for numerous airlines for cargo. As well as being agents for Rail Europe and Tradewinds, we have a representative office for CarlsonWagon Lit.” Aitken Spence also has an extensive fleet of vehicles, organises conventions and exhibitions and has been an IATA (International Association of Travel Agents) approved outbound travel agency since 1952.”

Integrated logistics

Mr Brito explains, “Our integrated logistics and freight-forwarding activities include a storage facility for laden and empty cargo containers, as well as container repairs and conversions. We also undertake local and multi-country cargo consolidation and stuffing at our container freight station. We have our own road transport company, and we contract out to shipping lines as well. We also manage warehouses belonging to us and to other companies, and we have flexi-tanks and refrigerated storage facilities. In addition, we have a garments-on hanger and quality assurance (QA) centre, where we undertake QA activities for garment manufacturers. We are also involved in transportation, and have a fleet of prime movers, trailers and bowsers (fuel and oil tankers). “We are, additionally, involved in heavy and bulk cargo handling. We have represented TNT for over a quarter of a century, and we act as a domestic courier through our subsidiary, Ace Xpress, with 14 courier centres island-wide, and act as agents for Spring Global Mail. Moreover we are also involved in freight-forwarding mainly for the garments trade and also in maritime transport, being agents for Hapag Lloyd and Hyundai.

Maritime activities

“Our maritime activities include port management and development. We have established a partnership with China Merchant Group, and have just submitted a bid for a 35 year contract to design, build and operate a new terminal in the Port of Colombo, worth US$500 million. We are confident that we shall get the contract as we are the sole bidder. We also have an efficiency management contract for the port in Durban, South Africa, which involves us sending our staff there to increase the port’s efficiency, particularly with respect to raising the number of moves per hour.”

Strategic investments

“We have three power-generating plants in Sri Lanka producing 140MWof electricity from thermal power fuelled by oil and diesel, contributing 12 percent of the island’s power. We are working with Caterpillar of the USA and Wärtsila of Finland on our power plants. We have had a printing and packaging plant since 1950, equipped with Heidelberg offset printing machines, and we manufacture garments for Marks & Spencer, Columbia (USA) and Gap in two factories. “For the past 100 years, except for a gap between 1975 and 1995, when the Government nationalised plantations, we have been associated with the plantations industry and are now a partner in a consortium of 33 plantation estates covering 16,000 hectares. ” We also have a joint venture crude palm oil mill – only the second such facility to have been established in Sri Lanka in 30 years.”

Being a pioneer

Mr Brito believes that strength in management and a willingness to explore new opportunities are among several key strengths accounting for the company’s success. “For example, we pioneered the first five-star resort, the first theme resort and the first eco resort in Sri Lanka. Our flagship resort, Heritance Kandalama has become a paradigm for global best practice in terms of sustainable tourism with many pioneering initiatives, which have been replicated in many of our other hotels.”

Reliable and trustworthy

“Lastly, the broad range of our activities means that we are better able to resist the downturn, and we have not been too affected by the recession. The exception has been our operations in the Maldives because these are more reliant on western guests, which, again, we are attempting to change through market diversification strategies focused especially on East Asia. Last year, we were one of the few listed companies in Sri Lanka showing an increase in profit (over 10 percent).We have returned an average revenue growth of 31.5 percent and a profit growth of 16.2 percent over the last four years. “We have ISO-accreditation for all of our activities, and we are partners in the UN Global Compact (a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anticorruption), being members of the steering committee of the local network. The principles of the compact are applied in all of our hotels.

A good time for growth

“Fortunately, the 30 year civil war has just come to an end, and we are seeing a gradual return to tourism particularly as the island has an array of attractions, including very rich biodiversity and cultural heritage. Sri Lanka has the beach, wildlife, rain forests, cricket and now peace, all on a beautiful island. Also, the Tamil diaspora are returning and investing again in the country.

A bright future

As for the future, Aitken Spence is not content to rest on its laurels: “We shall be looking at new opportunities, especially in hotel management, renewable energy, notably wind power, infrastructure development and logistics and transport,” asserts Mr Brito, adding, “We shall also be expanding into the north east of the island where tremendous opportunities lie with the end to the war. We intend to expand our chain of resorts by aggressively pursuing further hotel management contracts in South Asia, the Middle East and South-east Asia. With a unique approach to interventionist management, our new Aitken Spence consultancy arm plans to make inroads in regional markets. “With Sri Lanka on the verge of a boom, we are keen to play amajor role in the development of infrastructure and key services that are particularly in demand in the recently liberated region in the north and east of the country. Building on our management expertise in a myriad of industries, and our experience spanning over 140 years, we will continue to grow the company in ways that serve both our country and our employees,” concludes Mr Brito. With its wide range of services and products, dynamic leadership, pioneering approach to business, and the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka, Aitken Spence surely can look forward to continuing success and prosperity.

As seen on EuroAsia Industry Magazine – Issue 8 – 2009

Deputy Chairman/MD Review: J M S Brito

15 Jun

The Group achieved a noteworthy growth during the year 2009/10 despite the many challenges and obstacles placed in its path by both the global and local operating environments, demonstrating the strength and resourcefulness of a resilient organisation which was driven by a clear vision, strategic foresight and a spirit of endurance. The net profit attributable to shareholders increased by 1.8% to Rs. 2.08 billion, although there was a decline in revenue from Rs. 29.3 billion to Rs. 24.4 billion. The reduction in revenue was primarily due to the lower tariff rates applicable to the companies in the power generation segment of the Group. The operating profits for the year declined by 2.0 % to Rs. 4.0 billion while the net profit after tax declined by 2.1 % to Rs. 3.0 billion compared to the previous year.

The share price in your Company as at the year end stood at Rs. 1,373.75 which represents a growth of 336.1%, when compared to the price as at the previous year end, which is a true reflection of the value of the Company. The Total Shareholder Return (TSR) which reflects the total returns received by a shareholder was a positive of 339.3% for the financial year 2009/10.

An indepth analysis of the financial statements is given in the operational and financial reviews. The prolonged downturn of the global economy influenced the Group’s operations during the year, necessitating us to think beyond conventional markets and strategies so as to ensure a continued enhancement of shareholder value. It was heartening to note that many of our businesses – in particular the Cargo Logistics sector – vastly benefited from the diversity of products and services offered within the Group. The prudent and strategic diversification over the years has thus borne fruit, giving the Company the strength to be resilient  during unexpected downturns which could overwhelm corporates that are not geared to meet such situations. With the ending of the three decade long war, Sri Lanka is optimistic of being able to exploit the advantages of a peaceful, stable and unified nation amidst widespread global pessimism. As expected, the dawn of peace led to a resurgence of economic activity across the country, including the North and East, and improved international investor confidence in the ability of Sri Lanka to achieve high economic growth. This improved confidence is clearly evidenced by the fact that Sri Lanka has been listed by several leading global publications as one of the best destinations to visit in 2010.

The dramatic change in the investment climate resulting from the end of the war, coupled with renewed optimism on the future of the country and our conviction of the potential of the tourism industry, merited a shift of focus towards the expansion of the Group’s resort portfolio within Sri Lanka. Having expanded our footprint in the leisure sector across the region and beyond in recent years, the time is now opportune to capitalise on the new opportunities available in Sri Lanka.

Tourism

With the prospects of a growing Sri Lankan market triggering a shift of emphasis towards strengthening our presence in the country, we have fast tracked the Group’s expansion plans in the tourism sector. As a corporate that has pioneered innovative tourism product offerings in Sri Lanka with ten award winning properties, Aitken Spence is uniquely positioned to reap rich dividends from the expected boom of tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka. In view of these developments, we are optimistic and confident that the Tourism sector will be the key engine of growth for the Group over the next few years.

Emphasising our confidence in the future of the tourism sector, the holding company of the Group’s hotels, Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings PLC., successfully concluded a rights issue to raise equity funding of Rs. 2.5 billion in order to finance some of the high priority expansion projects including those in the North and East. In addition to the projects in Sri Lanka, a small portion of the funds will be utilised for the development of a unique resort with floating villas in Kerala, South India, in a joint venture with an Indian partner. Our Heritance properties as well as most of our other properties in Sri Lanka were refurbished and maintained at optimum levels even when the industry was in the doldrums. The Tea Factory was brought under the Heritance brand during the year following a complete upgrade. As such, Aitken Spence is well prepared and poised to take advantage of the expected increase in tourist arrivals during 2010/11.

Key projects rolled out during the year include the conversion of Neptune Hotel, the Group’s first ever resort property, into a sixty four roomed specialised Ayurveda and wellness resort, due to open in December 2010. The Group acquired the ninety four roomed Ramada Resort, formerly known as Golden Sun Resort, in Kalutara which was managed by us since 1998. This resort will be refurbished and upgraded in the near future so that it can command a higher price for the excellent value it offers to the traveller. We also intend developing the 100 acre beachfront property at Nilaveli as a priority project. We are in the process of evaluating a number of options before deciding on the final development plan at Nilaveli which would be aimed at harnessing the maximum value of this prime property. Also in the pipeline is a hotel in Jaffna where there is presently a dearth of high quality accommodation for both international and domestic travellers.

The tourism industry is vitally important to the economy both as a source of direct and indirect employment for a large number of Sri Lankans and as a valuable foreign exchange generator for the country. Therefore, it is desirable that both the government and the private sector work hand in hand to ensure the sustainable growth of the tourism industry. The increased arrivals can be translated to long term growth only through a well planned and cohesive tourism development strategy. The responsibility for the implementation of this strategy should be jointly shouldered by the government and the private sector. Further, the country’s infrastructure ought to be improved in tandem to support the demands of the modern traveller, while the construction of large scale properties providing quality accommodation should be encouraged via investment incentives, in order to gain economies of scale.

The performance of the Group’s resorts in the Maldives was satisfactory during the year as the world recovered from the recession. By the end of the year the Maldives and in particular our resorts, were enjoying heavy demand and high occupancy rates, although the average room rates declined. An increase in average room rates is expected in the coming year. Maldivian authorities are considering a new regime of higher lease rents as well as the introduction of new taxes and as one of the largest international resort operators in the country we hope that conditions conducive to investment and operations will continue in the future.

The destination management segment grew from strength to strength, as tour operators welcomed the dawn of peace in Sri Lanka by increasing their volumes. The segment continues to pursue new markets even as the visitor arrivals from its traditional markets in Europe continued to improve. Increased tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka have resulted in the hotel industry being able to increase room rates. Whilst this would no doubt benefit the earnings of the hotel industry, it could also result in travellers finding Sri Lanka an unattractive destination in terms of price. In order to preserve its competitiveness as a destination, Sri Lanka has to aspire to be more competitive with regional destinations by giving priority to fine tuning a diversified, high quality tourism product which would tangibly justify the increase in rates, as well as attract an assortment of travellers. We also hope that the government would favourably consider a proposal by the travel industry advocating an open skies policy, which would facilitate more airlines and charter flights to the country. It is vital that the world’s major airlines fly to Sri Lanka on a regular basis for the long term development of the tourism industry. The country will truly benefit from such a policy and it is essential that it is accompanied by the liberalisation of ground handling and catering services.

The General Sales Agents for Singapore Airlines and Kingfisher Airlines have reported losses during the period. The global financial crisis which compelled airlines to reduce the number of flights as well as the increased operating costs had an adverse impact on the profitability of this segment. We are hopeful of improved performance in the coming year. Singapore Airlines has already introduced daily night flights while Kingfisher Airlines may also add at least one additional destination to its present schedule of one flight per day from Chennai. Aitken Spence takes pride in managing hotels overseas with a portfolio encompassing five resorts in Oman and five in India. The Indian properties enjoyed a stable year and the Group’s sixth managed property in India will commence operations shortly in time to offer its services during the Commonwealth Games. The profitability in the Oman market reduced this year due to the economic uncertainties in the Middle Eastern hub Dubai, with an almost 30% drop in occupancy. The Group continues to explore new opportunities for management of hotels in other regions, including those in which we already have a presence.

Cargo Logistics

A consortium comprising of Aitken Spence and China Merchant Holdings International – one of China’s largest port operators and a company listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange- was the sole bidder to design, build and operate the South Container Terminal development project at the Port of Colombo. Negotiations with the government of Sri Lanka are now at an advanced stage and are expected to reach a successful conclusion during the coming year. Beyond our shores, the maritime sector continues to entrench itself on the African continent; our scope widened during the year with the award of a ship planning contract involving several South African ports, in addition to the existing port efficiency enhancement operations. The integrated logistics segment enjoyed a successful year, during which it also made several investments in expanding its container freight station and warehousing facilities. This organic growth has set the segment on a strong footing to fast forward its activities in the coming year, as an improved business climate and easing global recession enable an increase of rates and greater volumes.

The freight forwarding segment had a very challenging year with profitability in certain business lines declining which was offset through the exceptional contribution made by the express and supply chain segments. As economic activity accelerates in the North and East the segment’s strong credentials of superior terrain knowledge and its experience in the region even during the war years, has made it a preferred choice for those seeking reliable distribution solutions in these areas. The European Commission’s proposal to temporarily withdraw the GSP+ preferential tariff benefits is of much concern to the Group, given the exposure of its Freight and Cargo segments to the apparel, tile and ceramic industries which would be affected. We are hopeful that the government will take necessary steps to prevent the removal of GSP+ thereby preventing any adverse impact on the economy.

Strategic Investments

While our power segment has performed well given the constraints in the industry, we do observe that growth potential in Sri Lanka seems limited in the immediate future. We are disappointed that despite a government policy of awarding all power projects to private sector independent power producers, no such projects have been initiated over the past 5 years. In light of these developments, we are of the view that the time is appropriate for us to venture overseas and utilise our expertise in the region. In addition, the Group continues to pursue green energy projects and other alternative sources. We have already commenced a 2.5 MW hydropower project in Matale and are developing a wind power plant.

Returns from our plantations companies have been disappointing with heavy pressure on their bottom lines due to a wage increase that took retrospective effect. It is important that to be truly competitive, the industry must be allowed to be driven more by market dynamics than by socio-political influence. The effects of global warming are a growing concern, as changing weather patterns have created havoc with traditional plantation schedules. In addition to its tea and rubber bases, the Group is forging ahead with its palm oil segment, which is likely to deliver a healthy rate of return in the long term. The Group’s venture into the palm oil segment has already yielded very encouraging returns. Shortly after the year end we divested our stake in Hayleys Plantation Services Ltd, the holding Companyof Talawakelle Teas Estates PLC, to the Hayleys Group who were the managing agents in keeping with our policy of only owning companies in which we have control of management.

The printing segment which has made several enhancements to its technology and capacity, consolidated its strengths during the year. The segment concentrated on high-end printing jobs to complement its packaging and enhanced its marketing activities. A capacity utilisation study was carried out to identify where greater volumes could be achieved. The segment has also recognised the fact that its present location and plant do not facilitate long term expansion plans and is therefore considering alternatives for relocation. The apparel segment enjoyed a successful year as major buyers returned with a substantial volume of orders. The segment renegotiated prices and improved production efficiencies which enabled it to achieve an encouraging performance. The segment’s current customer profile consists mostly of US buyers and it is therefore unlikely to face the brunt of a GSP+ withdrawal.

Services

The inward money remittance business recorded an excellent growth in volumes although its profitability declined due to global trends. We are optimistic that the year ahead will show an improvement. The North and East which attract large volumes of remittances from Europe and North America have seen increased funds being sent through formal channels with the end of the war. Our expansion plans in the coming year will therefore focus on the newly opened regions. The Group has seen vast benefits from operation and maintenance (O&M) services provided to the power generation segment, with all three power plants generating significant cost savings. The O&M segment focuses on achieving a high degree of reliability through enhanced technical and operational support. Since this segment is now established and experienced, it is seeking opportunities to make its services available to third parties both locally and overseas.

Our OTIS elevator agency has consistently bettered its performances year on year, a trend that continued this year. The segment’s maintenance contracts comprise a major revenue stream while it is poised to benefit from a boom in small and medium-scale construction projects that are expected in the country.

The Lloyds insurance agency showed steady growth and is optimistic of exploiting the opportunities presented through the impending North and East development. The insurance brokering arm has successfully commenced servicing niche clientele outside the Group.

Internal Strengths

The financial shared services centre launched last year, has made significant progress – with the majority of Group companies now under its umbrella. The synergies of shared services have enabled the Group to achieve cost and operational efficiencies. The centralised division has also enabled greater visibility of subsidiary activities at the corporate centre. Relevant activities in the rest of the subsidiary companies, including overseas operations, will be taken over by the centre during the coming year. The Group continues to focus on modernising its IT infrastructure and systems; we will constantly seek ways of speeding up group-wide reporting by means of automation and technology. As we fast forward our activities in the coming year, priority will be given to an IT strategic plan geared towards creating a paperless office and an improved management information system. Fundamentally, the strategy would integrate more robust IT security controls and an effective disaster recovery plan. In order to further strengthen our internal control systems, Aitken Spence will also fine tune its internal audit function which would focus on strengthening systems and processes.

I am proud to note that Aitken Spence did not have a requirement to downsize its operations over the past two years. Moreover, we have persisted with providing ample training and educational assistance to our employees, to ensure their personal and professional development. Today, we have been vindicated as our pool of talent is equipped and eager to deliver the results we seek. I believe that the environment created in our new premises “Aitken Spence Tower II” has also had a positive influence on employee morale. During the year, the majority of the Group’s Colombo-based operations took up residence at the modern, spacious building which has been designed to be environmentally sustainable and built to world class standards. The Group made a number of strides this year in order to further institutionalise its commitment to sustainable development. We developed an integrated sustainability policy that facilitates the achievement of Millennium Development Goals and the principles of the UN Global Compact. As part of the commitment enshrined in the policy, the Group will include the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) sustainability reporting framework in its Annual Reports from this edition onwards. It is noteworthy that the integrated sustainability policy and its implementation, including the application of the GRI Framework, have been driven exclusively by internal expertise.

Appreciations

During the year, two key members of the management board resigned from the services of the Company, I wish to place on record the yeomen contributions made by Mr. Chethiya Perera who, as the CEO of the Adaaran chain of resorts played a major role in building the Maldivian resort sector and Mr. Indrajit Abeywardene who headed the printing sector of the Group and served the Company for over thirty years. We wish them all success. I warmly welcome Mr. Vipula Gunatilleka as the Chief Corporate Officer who joined us during the year, bringing with him solid corporate credentials. I must place on record my appreciation of my colleagues on the Board, whose input has been valuable to me and my management team. Our many stakeholders – customers, business partners, suppliers and communities – have placed their faith in Aitken Spence during good times and bad; their confidence in us is indeed heartening to note and rewarding. Above all, I extend my sincere gratitude to the members of the Aitken Spence team – who have faced one of the most challenging years with an undying spirit and commitment to win. Driven by a shared vision, our employees have amply demonstrated that collective action can and will empower them to reach higher goals. I look ahead with anticipation to the current year which promises to be an exciting one at Aitken Spence as we fast forward our expansion and lead the country’s emergence into a new era of economic strength.

For more infomation on the Groups performance for 2009/2010, click: http://www.aitkenspence.lk/about_us/financial_reports_of_aitken_spence_sri_lanka.asp

Annual Report – Message from Our Deputy Chairman – 15 June 2010

Aitken Spence Funds the Complete Logistics Operation for IIFA 2010

1 Jun

The IIFA Awards, the celebrity charity match and the IIFA Fashion Show this week have brought in over 75 tonnes of cargo by air and 16 containers by sea. The complete cargo operation was funded by the Sri Lanka-based conglomerate, Aitken Spence.

The cargo comprises of stage fittings, lighting & sound equipment, trussing, LED screens and even cricket equipment of the Bollywood stars for the charity match. A chartered aircraft has been used by the organisers to airlift some of the urgent cargo from Luxembourg.

The logistics operation which is door-to-door from India to Sri Lanka will also cover post event re-export of the materials brought in to Colombo for the three events.

Aitken Spence who was chosen as the official Logistics Partner for IIFA 2010 will fund and provide the total logistics solution for the mega series of events this week. The Company confirmed that the cargo which arrived in different lots during the past week or so has been a challenge.

“The operation was virtually a race against time. We handled close to eight shipments and daily air cargo during a span of about a week; all of which were required to be cleared from the port or the airport and delivered to the designated points in Colombo very quickly”, said Mr. Kavan Aluwihare, Assistant Vice President, Aitken Spence Shipping.

Aitken Spence which has been in the maritime services industry since its inception provides integrated services that cover the whole range of logistics requirements such as air & sea freight forwarding, brokerage, transportation, international air express, domestic express delivery, global mailing and supply chain management. The diversified group’s pioneering logistics operations have set industry benchmarks and is trusted by a range of international brands in a variety of industries.

Media Release – 01 June 2010

Norman Gunewardene – Visionary Leader Who Consolidated Group

16 Nov

Mr NormanMr. Norman Gunewardene, a past Chairman of Aitken Spence & Company Limited, passed away on the 17th May 2008. Mr. Gunewardene joined Aitken Spence in 1959 as an Executive, in the shipping division. Having been trained at the Britannia Royal Navy College in Dermot – UK, where he graduated as a  mid shipman, it was indeed very natural that shipping became his passion at that time. He witnessed the birth of containerization and saw its eventual arrival in Sri Lanka, in the late 70’s.

As a founder director of Aitken Spence Shipping Ltd in 1972 Mr Gunewardene headed the Far East Liner division of the Multi principal shipping agency company and helped to elevate it to become the industry bench mark. He later led the entry of Aitken Spence shipping Ltd in to the prestigious Multiport ship agencies Network.

Mr. Gunewardene was instrumental in the launching of freight forwarding and air cargo operations at Aitken Spence.  Ace Air Cargo (Private) Limited was set up to handle Air and sea Freight operations, customs brokerage and also international courier operations. The company made vast strides in the Freight Forwarding sector and grew to be among the top Freight Forwarders representing a host of leading International Global Freight Forwarding Companies.   Later on, he was to set-up Sri Lanka’s first local courier service – Mail Fast also under the Ace banner.

In the early 1980’s the Sri Lanka Ports Authority was congested with laden and empty containers and this reached a crisis situation. In a drastic and desperate move the Port ordered shipping lines to move their empty containers out of port within 48 hours. At this point Aitken Spence was well positioned with storage space for empty containers at the Aitken Spence Yard at Mattakkuliya due to Me Gunewardene’s foresight in setting up such a facility. Mr. Gunewardene took the initiative to set-up a fully fledged container freight station, Ace Containers (Pvt) Limited, which today has moved location to Mabole – Wattala to be one of the largest facilities in the country. Mr. Gunewardene had the vision and daring to foresee the growth of the logistics industry in Sri Lanka, when he pioneered the setting-up of Ace Distriparks (Pvt) Limited and set-up satellite units of the Distriparks in strategic outstation locations and Container Freight Stations in the Free Trade Zones.

Mr. Norman Gunewardene’s long and distinguished career at Aitken Spence reached its pinnacle, when he was appointed Chairman of the Group in November 1995. He retired from this position in October 1996 and remained as a non executive director in the company until June 2002, thereby ending a long and distinguished career with the company spanning 43  years.

Mr. Gunewardene’s business ideology was rooted on integrity and discipline which he instilled in the minds of the people who worked for him. Together with the other visionaries who led Aitken Spence in the  in the years before the turn of the century Mr. Gunewardene was able to establish Aitken Spence as one of the most admired and respected  blue chip companies in the country.

Norman Gunewardena had a very distinguished school career at Royal College where he shone in   sports. He excelled in swimming and rugby and played in the Bradby shields of 1950 and 1951. He continued  his passion for  rugby   after leaving school  and his rugby career   reached great heights when he  represented  the  CR & FC  from 1954 to 1961 and during that time  was  called  up  to represent  the country on many occasions .

Later in life his passion evolved from Rugby to Golf and appreciating wine.

Mr Norman Gunewaerdene will be remembered for his pioneering efforts in setting up the Freight Forwarding and Container Logistic infrastructure at Aitken Spence which now is reaping rich dividends for the company.

May he rest in peace.

2008 – Ace Magazine Issue 2

Another Pioneering first…Getting Durban into ship-shape

13 Nov

Durban

First Sri Lankan company to begin int’l port efficiency and training programmes

Aitken Spence became the first Sri Lankan company to venture overseas in the field of port efficiency management and training. Under the supervision of Port Management Container Services, a subsidiary of Aitken Spence Shipping, sixty-five consultants and trainers will offer their services at Durban Port, South Africa.

Programmes consist of various activities focused on attaining attitudinal change. One hundred and sixty four harbor employees have currently received training and the success of the venture has also resulted in high demand from other international ports for similar training services.

2007 – Ace Magazine Issue 3