By Cheranka Mendis
Sri Lanka’s unit trust industry aims to grow to a Rs. 50 billion industry within the next five years.
Even though the industry is at a very early stage at present, the potential to grow is huge, said Ceybank Asset Management Chairman K.L. Hewage yesterday, at the opening of their new corporate office and Bank of Ceylon (BOC) extension office down Ward Place, Colombo 7.
He noted that the importance of the industry had been commented on by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had pledged his support to take it forward to its maximum potential. With certain tax concessions being granted in the last Budget, the cause has been keenly supported by the state, Hewage said.
With only 10 licensed companies operating in the market, Ceybank, the second unit trust company to commence operations in Sri Lanka, today stands as the leading body with a 40% market share and a net asset base of Rs. 4,200 million. Being the largest equity unit fund with an asset base of Rs. 100 million, the company has maintained a growth rate of 20% per annum for the past few years.
Ceybank currently manages five unit trust funds, Hewage said. “Having started with ‘Ceybank Unit Trust,’ an income and growth fund, we introduced the country’s first equity unit trust fund, ‘Ceybank Century Growth Fund.’
Then came ‘Ceybank Gilt-Edged Fund,’ a closed end gilt-edged income fund in 2008, ‘Ceybank SavingsPlus,’ a money market fund in 2009 and ‘Ceybank Surakum,’ a gilt-edged fund, in 2010,” he said, adding that the company was keen on introducing a wide range of investor-related products in the future.
Commenting on the company’s presence in the stock market, Hewage acknowledged that profits of Rs. 3,700 million had been made within the last 10 years. “Even though the stock market showed depreciation last year, we were able to give out Rs. 385 million as dividends for investors.”
He also noted that trends similar to what were seen in the past in the stock market, i.e. sudden rise of interests by 5-% in 2001, downward trends in 2007-2008 and the 100% growth in 2009 and 2010, could be expected in the future. “We have a small and volatile market. There is a possibility of recovering the losses made in the past within the year or even a couple of good months.”
With five regional centres already in operation, the future of Ceybank looks secure, he said. “We will continue supporting the economy of the country by providing better products in the future.”
Ceybank Deputy Chairman Mano Selvanathan, who was part of the initial team that founded the company, stated that the company was incorporated in 1991as The Unit Trust Management Co. (Pvt) Ltd. and was promoted by the Bank of Ceylon, Merchant Bank of Sri Lanka Ltd., Carson Cumberbatch & Co. Ltd., Unit Trust of India and then Wardley Investment Services (Hong Kong) Limited (now HSBC Global Asset Management Limited).
“We have grown from strength to strength and a key source of inspiration behind this success is the emphasis on compliance and corporate governance by the Board and staff of the company.”
At the same premises of the Ceybank Corporate Office, Bank of Ceylon also opened a new extension office and customer service point as well as an ATM machine.
BOC General Manager W.A. Nalini stated that the new spacious office marked the opening of a new home for BOC. Strategically located, the easy accessibility of the bank will attract more customers, she said.
“We currently have 984 customer service points in the country. Before the end of the year, this number will rise to 1,000 points. The customer service point at Ward Place will further uphold the ethics and values of the company, strengthening the ties between our customers and the bank.”
Nalini added: “We are well placed in the industry and the US$ 500 million bond issue in April will stand testimony to this fact.”
The initial deposit to Ceybank was Rs. 1 million by P.L. Perera, while the initial deposit to BOC was made by T.M. Tilakerathne.