Business Today


The Top 10 Awards
2003 - 2004

The winning companies. L–R-The Top 10 analysis team – Shiron Gooneratne, Keith Bernard, and Dinesh Weerakkody; Shuhei Anan, CEO, SLT; Dr T N Jinasena, Chairman, DFCC Bank; Andrew O’Regan, CEO, Ceylon Tobacco Company; Mathi K Parthipan, MD, BT Options, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa; DHS Jayawardena, Chairman, DCSL and Aitken Spence and Company; Thilak de Soyza, Chairman, Carson Cumberbatch; Rienzie Wijetilleke, Chairman, HNB; Harris Premaratne, Senior Deputy GM-Corporate Banking, Commercial Bank of Ceylon; Susantha Ratnayake, Deputy Chairman, John Keells Holdings; and Richard Ebell, Finance Director, Hayley.

BT Options, the publishers of Business Today, Sri Lanka’s premier magazine for the corporate world, held the annual Business Today TOP 10 Awards Ceremony on August 26, 2005.

The analysis to determine the TOP 10 public quoted companies in Sri Lanka is based on financial performance for the fiscal year 2003/04 as well as other significant criteria. Leading the way was Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka, followed by John Keells Holdings, Sri Lanka Telecom, Hatton National Bank, Commercial Bank, Ceylon Tobacco Company, Aitken Spence & Company, Hayleys, DFCC Bank, and Carson Cumberbatch & Company.

The event, which was attended by an elite gathering of personalities from the business world, was graced by the presence of Mahinda Rajapaksa, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, as the chief guest.

The address by the chief guest Mahinda Rajapaksa,
Prime Minister of Sri Lanka

I am happy to be able to participate in an event such as this, at a time when we will soon be asked to evaluate and choose the leadership of our country for the next six years. I therefore thank the head of Business Today- Mr Mathi Parthipan – for inviting me and giving me the opportunity of sharing some of my thoughts with you.

This is the time to reflect – the time to pause and think about a direction for the future. This is the time to ask ourselves some questions. What do our people say? What do our people want? What do the different sectors of our society want us to help them to achieve?

Let me be frank and honest with you. The recent history of our country has been one of turmoil, of missed op­portunities, of uncertain initiatives, and of policies whose fruits we have hardly enjoyed. In the course of my political career, which spans a period of 35 years, it has become more and more clear to me that our country is yearning for a more positive – a more practical – approach to the challenges of our times.

What our country needs is a new approach – a New Beginning. All sec­tors of our society are sick and tired of theories and verbose statements: sick of seeing the ‘vision statements’ of our leaders, which have been largely confined to words, and words alone. Like you, the captains of business, I too am impatient with words. And like you, the captains of business, I too want action first, action second, and action all the way.

Take the corporate sector as an example. Every successive government has gone on repeating that over-used mantra – “The Private Sector is the Engine of Growth” – and quietly abdi­cated much of the government’s own responsibility for enabling economic growth in our country. Growth should be a joint effort of the government and the private sector. In this partnership, the role of the government should be to create an enabling environment for commercial growth.

But what is the ground reality? Government policies that are friendly towards the private sector, are often found to be in place. But public sector institutions on the one side, and the country’s public service on the other, have not been reformed or restructured to facilitate the implementation of the private sector-friendly policies of the government. You know this better than me. Instead of enjoying the facility of an enabling environment, the private sector is still hemmed in, to a large extent, by an environment that is restrictive and frustrating.

“Every successive government has gone on repeating that over-used mantra – “The Private Sector is the Engine of Growth” – and quietly abdicated much of the government’s own responsibility for enabling economic growth in our country. Growth should be a joint effort of the government and the private sector. In this partnership, the role of the government should be to create an enabling environment for commercial growth.”

 This must be transformed. And to achieve this objective, you – the captains of business – must guide me. I don’t for a moment claim to have all the answers to all the problems of our country. I am not a person who knows it all. Hence I will depend on the corporate sector on the one side, and the professional communities of our country on the other, to guide me in crafting solu­tions to the problems of growth and development. Please reach out to me – the doors of my house will be always open to you.

I also count on you, the big play­ers of the corporate sector, to help and guide the small and medium scale businesses of our country to grow and become – some day – as important as you.

As a part of our ‘New Beginning’, I would also like to invite you to join me in an effort to evolve a new political culture in our country: One in which the public service is free of politics; and one in which a consensus is reached across the lines of party politics, on specific matters of national importance. For instance, all political parties must agree on a consistent set of policies for the private sector. A change of government should not result in a change of policy where the business sector is concerned. We must respect the fact that good business practice requires planning on a long-term time horizon.

Let us invite the ‘National Business Team’ – the Business Today TOP 10 Award Winners of 2004′ to take the lead in joining us in this’ New Beginning’. While we congratulate you – the ‘TOP 10 Business Champions’ of 2004 – on the awards that you have won, let us also remind you that with your achievement you also undertake certain responsibilities for your country.

We endorse you today, as the country’s unofficial ambassadors to the outside world of business. You represent the business potential of our country. To the outside world, you represent what a business can achieve in the Sri Lankan business environment. You are a proxy for our country’s business environment. Other investors, both foreign and lo­cal, will be convinced that if you can achieve success in the way you have, they too can succeed if they invest in our country.

In conclusion, therefore, we thank Business Today for providing an institutional platform for recognizing the ’10 Business Champions’ of our country. The success of the champion team will attract more investment to our country.

Your event today is therefore a very important one where our country is concerned. We encourage and commend the tireless efforts of Business Today to organize a national event of this magnitude. I thank you once again for inviting me.

The address by Ven Galaboda Gnanissara Thero,
The Chief Priest of the Gangarama Temple and Sanga Nayake of the Western Province

Iam indeed pleased that Mr Mathi Parthipan has given a great impetus to the tourism industry of Sri Lanka by producing a beautiful magazine which is on par with international standards and is distributed free of charge. At the same time he has infused strength to the corporate sector of Sri Lanka by compiling a business magazine, which provides business news and gives strength to the local business sector.

Prior to being selected the TOP 10 companies for 2003/04, these companies have enjoyed a place in the ranking over a period of five years. Through such award ceremonies and recognition the business community has received much encouragement. Mr and Mrs Mathi Parthipan and the staff of BT Options have organized this event over consecutive years without meeting any criticisms. This has been done without anticipating any personal gain. We must appreciate the fact that this event has been organized respecting all religious faiths and it gains the respect of all communities. At this point we wish to appreciate the efforts taken by him in this regard.

In addition, I would like to make a request to the business community. Whilst recognizing the contribution made by each of the TOP 10 companies to the community, I request them to reach out to the remote and impoverished villages of our country. I urge you to identify these villages. We all know that some of the companies have taken the lead in this area and have already commenced development work in selected areas. I hope your focus goes towards the underprivileged rural communities of our country.

I hope there is peace. As we all know we experienced a period of terror where people were not free to travel about freely. We must not forget that era. Such an era can return and disrupt the progress made by businesses. We have to think about the common services and I hope the business fraternity takes a closer look into this area. It is not only the political parties; the business community also has to take a lead in the development process. This is how other countries in the world have developed. I hope this draws your attention too.

With those thoughts I leave you with the blessings of the triple gem.

The speech delivered about BT Options

Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, recently said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. By continuously innovating and evolving, our company – BT Options – has ensured that we are leaders, not followers.

BT Options is a locally registered, independent, full-service publishing, production and communications company, in existence since 1997. Contrary to popular belief, the company is managed solely by the staff, without any external backing, investment or influence of any kind. A young, enthusiastic and dynamic team o almost 70 operates in a modern work environment equipped with the latest technology.

We are best known for our two magazine brands – Explore Sri Lanka and Business Today. With quality content and first-class design, they deliver more to their readers as well as advertisers.

18 years old, Explore Sri Lanka is the dominant promotional tourism, leisure and lifestyle magazine in the country. It is distributed free of charge in Colombo and to other areas, as well as by mail to expatriate and local residents, and to Sri Lanka’s missions overseas.

Business Today, in its tenth year of publication, has gained an unrivalled reputation as the magazine for the corporate world in Sri Lanka, with a readership of the country’s foremost decision-makers. Issues at the top of the magazine’s agenda include Corporate strategy, human capital management, governance, legislation, current affairs, and technology. Our prejudiced, responsible outlook, in-depth interviews with prominent personalities, and strict adherence to international copyright laws when reproducing articles from Harvard Business Review have ensured the success of Business Today.

The magazine’s professionalism and impartiality is given further credence by the fact that in the book titled ‘Competitive Intelligence for the Competitive Edge’ by Alan Dutka, Business Today of Sri Lanka is listed in the business magazine category amongst other noteworthy publications as The Economist, The Wall Street Journal and European Business Review, as a reliable source of global intelligence information. We are honored to be mentioned in this book, especially since in the same section, the all-powerful CIA is the agency quoted for data for the US Government.

In addition, we publish several magazines for high profile corporate clients and organizations, such as for Sri Lanka Telecom, Brandix Lanka, Odel, Eagle Insurance Company, South Asia Gateway Terminals, the Board of Investment in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority, the Planter’s Association of Ceylon, and the National Development Bank.

Production of special edition coffee table books is also undertaken by BT Options. Well-known examples include On the Wings of Freedom, published on behalf of the Government of Sri Lan a for presentation to visiting dignitaries and is revised edition – the best-selling Sri Lanka Story, as well as the highly acclaimed The Growing Years, printed to commemorate the Planters’ Association of Ceylon’s 150th anniversary.

Commencing this year, the com­pany now retails selected original autobiographies, pictorials and instructive books, like Bill Clinton’s My Life, Winning by Jack Welch, Leadership by Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s advisory novels, and Four Inches, a stylish art book published in support of Sir Elton John’s AIDS Foundation.

BT Options diversified into the field of IT in 2001 by becoming the only Authorized Reseller for Palm handheld computers in Sri Lanka. In 2002, we pioneered the concept of LAN gaming by opening MindHead – a premier game zone and internet cafe. We also design, develop and host creative websites.

Two years ago, we became the Authorized Reseller and only Gold Service Provider for Apple Computers in the country. As the only company offering complete IT and video solutions, we have been able to carve a niche market for an innovative product within a very short time.

One of our satisfied clients is Sir Arthur C Clarke. Last year, the celebrated author and scientist was chosen to receive the Robert A. Heinlein Award for outstanding published work in science fact or fiction inspiring the human exploration of space. But sadly he was unable to attend the awards dinner in Boston. Aspiring to fulfill Sir Arthur’s wish to attend the event via real-time video, The Heinlein Society contacted Apple CSA to assist in finding a reliable dealer in Sri Lanka to set up a direct conference link. Apple USA communicated with Apple Singapore who recommended BT Options.

Our company was able to establish the link using Apple technology, which ensured an uninterrupted 90-minute live presentation during which Sir Arthur received his award and conversed with his colleagues from the Society. Appreciating our efforts, the President and Chairman of The Heinlein Society, David Silver, wrote a letter of commendation to Apple CEO Steve Jobs and the Board of Directors.

The letter states, “Please accept our grateful thanks to you, for an excellent product, an excellent and responsive support staff, and our particular compliments and commendations to one very excellent and resourceful partner in Sri Lanka – BT Options.”

Our company, in collaboration with our partner Apple, offers state-of-the-art video and film solutions in the domestic market. We are in the process of providing a compre­hensive solution for the Maharaja Organization’s media unit, and have already successfully done so for VideoImage and TVT, two leading video and film production enterprises. In this instance, we are grateful to Mr R Rajamahendran and Mr Mano Wickremanayake of Maharaja’s, Mr Suren and Mr Sohan de Silva of Video image, and Mr Ravindra Guruge of TVT, for having faith in a Sri Lankan company. They each gave us the opportunity to showcase our capabilities and we in turn did not let them down. We’re certain the superiority of all their productions is a consequence of this great technology.

Plans are currently underway to set up an Apple Training Academy in Colombo.

Business Today is the only South Asian publication to sponsor the Asian Bankers’ Congre s over the past three years and last year, we were chosen as a partner from Sri Lanka for the Global Brand Forum 2004 hosted in Singapore.

This year, Business Today has been appointed the official partner from Sri Lanka for the World Business Forum 2005. To be held next month in New York City, the prestigious event features ten eminent speakers including Sir Richard Branson, Colin Powell, Rudy Giuliani, and Jack Welch. We are the only organization selected to promote the Forum, other than for the event organizers themselves. Currently, eight participants from Sri Lanka are confirmed but final registration for the Forum is still possible.

Two of our associate companies are Emphasis, which is involved in public relations, promotions and event management, and InvestSL, which specializes in exclusive and independent business research and offers advice for potential investors.

Aristotle has said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” This is true of our company. With every endeavor, be it our publications, IT solutions or foreign partnerships, BT Options is committed to excellence. We are passionate about what we do and we are completely loyal to all our clients. We strongly believe in thinking global, not local. This is because in international markets, quality and integrity are what matter, rather than whom you know.

The speech delivered by Dinesh Weerakkody,
a member of the Business Today TOP 10 analysis team

It is my privilege to address you to­day on behalf of Business Today at this premier event, which recognizes the champions of Sri Lankan business and the giants of the corporate world. In recognizing these companies, we also like to recognize the CEOs of these companies. Business Today’ TOP 10 ranking is the ultimate recognition of a firm’s capacity to survive, thrive and prosper in adversity.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am privi­leged to have been associated with the TOP 10 rankings from the inception. The first Business Today rankings was compiled and announced on October 6, 1997. So today we are poised to recognize business excellence for the seventh year, which is an outstanding achievement for Business Today and its team.

Interestingly, out of the 10 companies in the 1997 listing, we have eight companies being recognized this year too. Six companies have been in our TOP 10 listing since 1997. The No. 10 company in our first ever listing, is today at the top of our list. Financial institutions dominated our first list; this has now changed. Perhaps the only two manufacturing companies that have survived right through, which are Distilleries Company and Ceylon Tobacco, tell us something about our culture.

Based on the feedback we received over the years, we have refined the criteria and introduced qualitative factors like employer of choice, qual­ity of products and services, and social responsibility. Therefore, the Business Today ranking is a good reflection of the qualities and practices that have come to be accepted by people advo­cating good management practices.

I am sure under the able leadership of Mr Parthipan, Business Today will continue to encourage and recognize top corporate performance and will continue to innovate and survive on the wings of change, to deliver value to society.

Ladies and gentleman, an important issue I would like to raise this evening and which we would like to recognize in our rankings in the future, is employment creation and talent development. That is creating opportunities for the multitude of graduates passing out of our local universities. In order to provide them a bright future, we all need to get our act together. We must invest in developing our people and provide opportunities for our talent to develop themselves to become more effective. Employing foreign expatriates to cover the short-term skills gap is a good thing. But we should not be importing talent for jobs that can be done by Sri Lankan professionals and graduates. Sri Lanka too has a pool of talented professionals who are commercially savvy and can deliver the desired levels of business performance. So let us all rise up to this challenge, to attract and retain our best talent.

I like to end with two great quotes, one from the greatest managers of our time, Jack Welch who said, when the rate of change outside exceeds the rate of change inside, the end is in sight; and the other from billionaire Steve Jobs that went something like this, “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you will be right.”

The problem no one want to think that way. Even people who think they can go to heaven don’t want to die, to get there. And yet that is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you – those of you receiving the awards, but however if you fail to recognize change, someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old. Then you will be cleared away by Business Today. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true. make the best of it.

The speech delivered by Keith Bernard,
a member of the Business Today TOP 10 analysis team

John Maxwell said, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.” At a time when we are celebrating business excellence, we must salute those CEOs and business leaders who had the foresight to lead their companies to the top. We hope you will be a beacon of light to those following your lead.

I have been asked to explain the process of selecting the Business Today TOP 10 companies. And in doing that I cannot help but go back to the year 1998 when we did the first ranking, selecting the top 10 companies for the year 1995/96.

Business Today was then a young magazine trying to fill the need of a magazine that focused on business in Sri Lanka and produce a source of information for corporate executives. Mathi was determined to find ways of encouraging and promoting business excellence and entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka through his magazine. That was when we conceived the idea of recognizing business excellence in Sri Lanka. But we wanted to do it our way, and so saw the creation of the Business Today TOP 10. Since then the annual rankings have been done consistently, saving one year, and we are proud of what it has become today.

In any form of ranking, credibility of the data used for the purpose is of utmost importance. We needed credible, validated, published information to base our rankings, and the information had to be timely. These conditions naturally led us to look at companies listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange.

To pick the best, as the starting point, we consider the 100 most traded stocks in the market for the particular year. So we know that the performing companies obtain a listing not only to secure some of the benefits of being listed. From among them we then select those 25 with the highest sales turnover. The reason for this is because we have to compare like with like, otherwise we will be comparing apples and oranges. But sales alone don’t determine the best performers, because profits determine shareholder wealth. We came up with a set of financial criteria that we thought are important to determine the Business Today TOP 10 companies. These are, turnover, growth in turnover, profits, growth in profits, value addition, value added per employee, earnings per share, market capitalization, return on equity, and value of shares transacted.

All these are financial criteria that can be extracted from company annual reports. But as you know, success of a business cannot only be measured by its financial performance. Businesses operate in open societies and therefore should be subject to some form of test to validate their openness and respon­siveness to society.

Mindful of this, we introduced three qualitative factors that we thought are important: Responsibility to the Community and the Environment, Quality of Products and Services, and Employ­er of Choice. Obviously these cannot be based on information provided in annual reports alone, so we use focus groups to independently report on how they see the 25 companies rate on the three qualitative factors.

Once the information is tabulated, we apply a system of weights that we have devised after a lot of careful thought and refinement over the years. We however don’t publish the weights because that is proprietary.

The support, cooperation and encouragement we have received from CEOs of top companies, business leaders and financial experts have been wonderful. We have had our share of criticism from ambitious CEOs whose companies did not quite make it to the top. But we have always been receptive to good advise and constructive criticism, and I suppose that is the reason the Business Today TOP 10 ranking has become so important among the Sri Lanka business community.

In the early years of the ranking, the financial sector monopolized the TOP 10 list. There were only three or four companies from the manufacturing or non-financial sector finding a place. Yet Ceylon Tobacco has been a consistent performer. We reported this observa­tion regularly, and today it is refresh­ing to see that companies with diverse business interests strongly challenging those from the financial sector.

The top two companies being recognized today are examples of strategic diversification and consolidation. Healthy competition is surely important for business and economic growth, but it is regretful to note that profits, as much as it is important to the very existence of business, is still mostly the overriding objective for businesses rather than giving back anything to society.

Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen farther than others, it is because T was standing on the shoulders of a giant.” In a slightly different context, though the same can apply to the CEOs of our larger companies, you have the opportunity to see further as you are on the shoulders of giants. I suppose I can say that at least one or two of the rep­resentatives of the TOP 10 companies here today are larger than the giants.

To quote the iron lady, Margaret Thatcher, she said, “No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions – he had money too.” She also said, “To wear your heart on your sleeve isn’t a, very good plan; you should wear it inside, where it functions best.” I think these have profound messages to us all. You have the opportunity to help our society, all you need is the will.

I am aware that Business Today has invested over Rs 2 million to recognize and honor the best business performers. This they do as part of their commitment to serve the business sector of the country. Our hope is that all companies in Sri Lanka will take a good look at these top performers and draw some inspiration.

To the TOP 10 performers here today, we can vouch for your selection and congratulate you on a job well done. We are confident you will continue to grow and will strive to hold your position if not do better. As someone said, “Footprints on the sands are not made by sitting down.”

Speeches by Top 10
BT Awards 2003 - 2004

D H S Jayawardena, Chairman, Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka and Aitken Spence and Company

It is my privilege to be here with you this evening. I am very proud that a government organization, which was privatized in the year 1992, which was a mere spirits company has come up in a very hard and long way in the shortest possible time from 1992 to 2005. Our success has not been a bed of roses. We had to undergo a lot of difficulties, not from the business community by especially from the lawmakers and the policemen of the law.

Over the years, this company alone has contributed over Rs 115 billion to the state coffers. When I say Rs 115 billion, the consumers have joined me in paying the legitimate taxes due to the government. Unfortunately, the lawmakers, the tax collectors and especially the Excise Department have very much opposed this progress of ours.

The company was privatized in the most transparent manner. At that time, it was one of the landmark acquisitions as well as the largest ever sale that took place in the Colombo Stock Exchange. Unfortunately, the Excise Department at that time, which held and ranked the organization before it became a corporation, was merely selling colored water. It was a gigantic task. We took at least two weeks in order to exercise our rights.

We could not enter the provinces. So, you can just imagine the opposition we had to face, although it was a legitimate purchase. After that, we had to take another two weeks to take a physical stock. I wish to briefly explain the history of our organization because it is not that easy for somebody to manage and take control of a company that was in the hands of a lot of people who had other ideas in the set up. It took two weeks to realize the amount of corruption that took place. All the paddy fields had turned yellow because all the excess spirits were disposed there during that period of time.

Nevertheless, we embarked on this journey and we managed to come to this very difficult position on the top slot of the Business Today Top 10 where the organizers have been successfully in conducting since 1996. Except for one year we have been selected amongst these TOP 10 corporates and we have been running all the time, all the while. However, I must mention that all these results have been achieved not by us, the directors or the workers alone but by our loyal customers as well.

Two thirds of the country is only serviced and one third is not being serviced. If that one third is also added to this portfolio, greater would be the revenue and the tax collection that would have gone to the state office.

In that spirit I must also explain that today in the newspaper the Minister of Finance has mentioned that has printed Rs 25,000 billion. All these amounts of funds can be collected if the lawmakers and the policemen of the law were to enforce strict discipline. This is what we practice in the company that we inherited, and from day one, we have maintained discipline. We train our staff and we send our people for training to all the best distilleries and the best organizations of the world to learn about the trade. All what we inherited was some buildings and some equipment.

The Britishers were the pioneers of this organization, when they started in early 1930s. Then the Excise Ordinance as monitored by the department and they ran the department. So I don’t have to mention the ill effects of a government department turning into a corporation and into a private conglomerate.

Susantha Ratnayake, Deputy Chairman, John Keells Holdings

I would like to thank Business Today for organizing this event and also for the invaluable contribution they have made to the business community in Sri Lanka. We at John Keells are honored and privileged to be recognized by you. I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the very worthy winner – Distilleries.

Today there are many other areas, which are trying to interfere with our business. They were bringing in laws through bad advertising and they were side-tracked by not giving the correct picture to the public. Why? Because there were interested parties who wanted to thrive in the illicit business.

Our competition is not from competitors who are numbering 17 today. When we started, we had six distillers and today we have boiled down to four. So, you can just imagine the illicit sector.

Now I come to the other company that I head, which is the Aitken Spence that I head, which is the Aitken Spence Group. This is the first time that the Aitken Spence Group has entered the race. It’s a great honor for the former Chairman, Mr Sivaratnam who is here today and the able Managing Director, Mr Rajan Britto who has brought in new thinking and new vision.

Today we are not merely an agency company for shipping as we acquired Nine Ships, the largest ship owner in Sri Lanka. It was formerly the shipping corporation but we are now placed in so many other areas. This company was started by a family in the late 1980s – Clark & Spencer in Galle. They came to Colombo and commenced other operations.

I will end my speech by thanking all the staff members, board of directors and the past chairmen who have directed and steered the company and the people who have given us all the best and the encouragement and advice to come up to this strong position.

I thank all the winners, the honorable Prime Minister and the ministers for taking the time and being with us – the corporate giants of the business world, all the trade chambers, chairmen of the trade chambers, the venerable thero for his passing remarks that all corporates should be more helpful to the poor. This is the message that we are believing in and we want to practice. So on that note I would like to end my speech by wishing all the other winners the best of luck for the new year.

Anil Obeysekera, Chairman, Sri Lanka Telecom

I thought I might say something about our company and achievements in the recent past, and also keep the business community informed of the achievements of Sri Lanka Telecom.

I am extremely pleased to be here today representing Sri Lanka Telecom, which has been ranked No.3 in the Top 10 listing of corporates by Business Today, the most prestigious business magazine in Sri Lanka. I am proud that Sri Lanka Telecom earned this ranking from such an impressive ranking system, which goes beyond financial performance. This is the first time Sri Lanka Telecom is entering the privileged Business Today’s TOP 10 club. To the many executives, managerial staff and the able leadership of our CEO, a big thank you for making Sri Lanka Telecom what it is today.

Sri Lanka Telecom has come a long way for it to achieve what it has today. Beginning as a government department, then a state corporation, today Sri Lanka Telecom has undergone a massive transformation in terms of ownership and provision of services with its privatization and listing in the Colombo Stock Exchange.

Sri Lanka Telecom’s IPO in 2002 was quite successful and the international bonds listed in the Singapore Stock Exchange in 2004, which generated USD100 million, too was a landmark success for the company. The Company was also awarded an AAA rating by Fitch International and Standard & Poor’s. Sri Lanka Telecom was ranked as the number one company listed in the Colombo Stock Exchange in 2004.

A company which was only known for providing basic voice telephony, today has become the country’s flagship total communication services provider in voice, data and networking solutions. Sri Lanka Telecom is one of the country’s most vital utility companies with an annual turnover in excess of Rs 29.5 billion. The Group Company has a customer base of over one million including multinational corporations, large and small companies, retail and domestic customers.

Today with NTT Communications of Japan as a strategic partner, Sri Lanka Telecom provides facilities and services to its customers, which are unmatched in scope. These services range from domestic and international voice, advanced data transmission services which include internet services on leased lines, broadbank on ADSL and dial up, data circuits, frame relay solutions, to IP based services such as IP-VAN, total solutions of combination of multiple services, and satellite uplink services also form part of our business.

Acquisition of the balance equity in Mobitel gave us tremendous strength to become the only communication provider who offers total solutions including mobile services. Today we at Sri Lanka Telecom are exploring the ways to evolve our core network to a Next Generation Network, which will be capable of offering multiple services and multiple access.

Our fully owned mobile company, Mobitel who commenced its GSM operation some 18 months ago, has completed over 300 GSM base stations today. Mobitel shows a steady growth in infrastructure development and its services offering. Whilst right technology differentiates Mobitel from others, we are confident that its unmatched value added services will generate some solid revenues to the Sri Lanka Telecom Group in time to come.

Entering the Business Today’s Top 10 club is something we consider an honor not only to us but also to the communication business sector. This, I believe is a promise to all our stakeholders – shareholders customers and employees – the triple pillars of our success.

I take this opportunity to thank and congratulate Mr Mathi K Parthipan, Managing Director of Business Today, the management and staff of Business Today on their initiative of setting benchmarks in whatever they do. My congratulations also go to the other nine members of the TOP 10.

Rienzie Wijetilleke, Chairman, Hatton National Bank

I am thankful to Business Today for once again selecting HNB in the TOP 10. I must recall with gratitude our late Chairman Mr Chrisantha Cooray who was steering the bank at the particular time when the selections were taken into account. At that time I was the CEO and MD of the Bank. I recall with gratitude his contribution to steer the bank in the forefront.

 HNB, as you all know, had a bad period mainly due to the heavy investment that we made in our HNB Towers amounting to Rs 6 billion between 1997-2000, which obviously did not give us the cash return. That kept us behind but we have now once again rallied around.

I will not speak about HNB much as we have been speaking for years. But I would like to draw the attention of this distinguished assembly towards two broader issues. The TOP 10 which is listed here are capable of doing much more things in this country. For instance, in the case of the tsunami – post tsunami assistance, which we can all see, has not progressed in the manner that we expected. If only the authorities realized early this year to hand over the total reconstruction to these 10 companies, they would have had better results. It’s food for thought.

Secondly, Business Today has now established a record of acceptance of selecting the TOP 10 companies in the country annually. However, the companies here are all under continuous scrutiny in this country. Every morning when we open the newspapers and look at the stock market we are all there. Every quarter we have to publish our results; we have to come out with our annual reports; we are answerable to our stakeholders and we have to give them a suitable return. So we are being scrutinized well enough. Why not Business Today whilst doing this, look at something a little broader?

We have the Presidential candidate before us today. Hopefully if he wins, he will have a new cabinet in the new year. Or maybe his opponent will have.

Either way, can’t Business Today think of selecting the Best 10 corporates or Ministries for next year? I am sure all these 10 corporates will sponsor that event because ladies and gentlemen, we require a return from the politicians of the country. We as corporates give a return to our stakeholders. I think the Ministers and Ministries for which we spend all our resources through taxes have a duty to show a return. So Business Today and Mr Parthipan can now with our help, list out the 10 Best Ministers and Ministries.

Hopefully the Prime Minister will remember the British Government with some 650 in the House of Commons has only 20 or 15 Ministers and a lesser number of Deputy Ministers. Let’s hope that the Prime Minister if he wins, will have a smaller cabinet so that it will be an easier task for Mr Parthipan to select the winners. We will all be in support of him.

Let’s hope that when 2007 comes, at least this country will know the 10 ministers who have contributed to the national income, employment, income generation and contributed to reduce corruption in this country.

With those thoughts I leave you and thank the organizers for giving us this opportunity.

Harris Premaratne, Senior Deputy General Manager – Corporate Banking,
Commercial Bank of Ceylon

The Bank’s Chairman Mr Amarasuriya and Managing Director Mr Amitha Gooneratne are currently overseas, so the task and pleasure of accepting the award as one of the Top 10 companies in Sri Lanka has befallen me. I am very much pleased to accept this.

Commercial Bank has been a recipient at the TOP 10 Awards from the inception and in 2002 we were awarded the No. 1 slot in this ranking. In Sri Lanka, the financial services industry is very competitive. This competition results in benefits to the Sri Lankan public at large. It gives them a quality service year after year when the financial institutions compete with each other for capturing higher business turnovers from the public. Commercial Bank has effectively met the challenge it has created by the competition and has been in the forefront over the last several years continuously.

We at Commercial Bank are mindful of our responsibilities towards our country. The management team is continuously guiding the staff towards providing the highest standards of services to the public of Sri Lanka. We have expanded our branch network to 130 at present and the entire network is connected online. We have provided over 200 ATMs across the length and breadth of the island and this is the largest network of ATM machines in the country. This again is for the benefit of the public of Sri Lanka.

Commercial Bank now has a staff of over 2,000. Every year we have been recruiting over 300 young personnel, graduates and advanced level qualified youngsters to the Bank, providing opportunities of good employment in the bank. We will continue this expansion drive, which will be beneficial to the urban and rural masses of Sri Lanka.

Apart from that, today Commercial Bank is in a position to match any of the foreign banks operating in Sri Lanka in the corporate and trade finance areas. We have been able to attract the top-grade multinationals operating in Sri Lanka who were traditionally banking with the foreign banks. We are very happy to achieve this status.

Commercial Bank’s presence is very prominently visible in Bangladesh as well. We purchased the business of the leading French Bank – Credit Agricole Indosuez – are expanding our network in Bangladesh. The benefits of our success in foreign countries accrue to profits – what we make there is brought back to Sri Lanka. Our strategy is to have a prominent presence in the region carrying the Sri Lankan flag. We believe that to become a strong player in major cities in Asia, Sri Lanka needs to create a big and solid banking institution. We are Commercial Bank have already started initiating this process and we solicit the blessings and the assistance of the policymakers and the regulators to facilitate this version.

We believe that whilst developing the SME sector, Sri Lanka is right to produce multinationals from this country. We have mature sectors in our country. We have mature sectors in our hospitality services, financial services, and the tea industry who can sell the Sri Lankan brand in foreign cities. The cumulative effect of the expansion into the region will be a benefit that will accrue to this country. I wish to state that the present position of the Commercial Bank in the country is due to the able guidance given by the directors and the management team led by Mr Amitha Gooneratne, the Managing Director and the commitment of the staff of the bank at all levels.

In conclusion, I wish to thank the publishers of Business Today for organizing this event year after year, which encourages the top corporates of the country, keeps them on their toes, and encourages and compels them to perform every year so that they could be listed in this prestigious list every year.

Andrew O’ Regan, Managing Director/CEO, Ceylon Tobacco Company

It gives me great pleasure to accept the award on behalf of Ceylon Tobacco Company for being placed sixth in the Business Today TOP 10.

In fact, Business Today magazine reports that CTC is the only one of two manufacturing companies that has continuously found a place on Business Today TOP 10 list over the past seven years. We are very proud to be consistently rated so highly by the leading business press.

Ceylon Tobacco is part of the world’s most international tobacco group – British American Tobacco. We operate in 180 markets around the world. Through this international connection, we have access to the very best corporate practices which we apply here in Sri Lanka for the benefit of the company and the country. CTC’s outstanding performance has been driven by operational excellence.

We as a company continuously raise the standards of all our areas of activities. Our vision is for corporate excellence in Sri Lanka and that defines our ultimate objective, constantly challenging and redefining boundaries, employing best practices at all times, and adopting the highest principles, and ethics. Our way of life at CTC resonates in the fact that we have been recognized for value-added per employee, employer of choice and corporate social responsibility.  

We have been placed No. 1 in the Value added per Employee section yet again! This highlights CTC’s investment in its people and the productivity achieved through this. Ofcourse we are helped in this by the quality of our people. The success achieved by CTC is due to the excellence of our people at all levels of the organization. We invest in their training and involve them fully in our transparent and challenging corporate culture.

I am proud to say that 15 of our managers are currently working on secondments in various parts of the world in very senior key roles. This also illustrates the talent pool Sri Lanka has as a nation and how being on the top list of companies as the employer choice helps CTC and BAT to profit from that pool of talent, both nationally and internationally.

CTC is justifiably proud of its corporate responsibility programs. We as a company have and will continue to embrace many sustainable projects mainly in rural parts of the country.

On the steps taken to rebuild people’s lives after that fateful day last year, we have gathered resources from the BAT group pf companies and employees from around the world and put it to use to construct much needed houses in the south and east of the country.

Today the company stands as one of the best business entities in the country and in the British American Tobacco world. We will continue meeting all stakeholder expectations and inspiring and assisting others to accomplish corporate excellence.

I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka for achieving the No.1 position and all the other TOP 10 companies for their dedication in setting high standards on an overall basis, which has seen them being placed as the forerunners of business excellence in Sri Lanka.

I also would like to thank the organizers of this event, BT Options for making it possible for the top companies of Sri Lanka to be recognized for their achievements and for being able to gather together at a prestigious event such as this.

Richard Ebell, Finance Director, Hayleys

I stand here as a substitute for my Chairman, who is unable to be present here today due to other engagements. Being very conscious of the fact that I am one in a long list of speakers and not having prepared a speech nor do I intend to make one.

All I would like to do is to thank Business today for the award being given to Hayleys today and congratulate all other award winners on the awards they are receiving.

Dr T N Jinasena, Chairman, DFCC Bank

I find myself overcome by the quality and brilliance of the audience that I am addressing and I congratulate Business Today for having assembled this wonderful audience.

May I say that I am deeply honored to receive this award on behalf of DFCC Bank. In doing so perhaps I may be acting under false pretenses, because at the time that the selection criteria were applied, I was only a director and not the Chairman of the DFCC Bank. My friend, late Mr Michael Mack was and this award represents a posthumous acclamation to this very great gentleman under whom we served with pride.

DFCC has been the business partner of today’s largest and most successful companies and entrepreneurs. We have 10,000 loyal customers who are the very best in the country because they have been selected through a process, which has has taken 40 years. This is in fact one of the great strengths of the DFCC Bank with the utmost loyalty and we in turn serve them with care and caring. We are not a bank that would slash and run. We would stand by our customer even if he is in periods of difficulty. These strengths together form a powerful union of strengths on which DFCC’s success is built.

The second such foundation of strengths lies in the fact that we have a very hardworking, dedicated and loyal staff. For an organization of our size and reach, you will perhaps be surprised to hear that we have only 350 employees in this whole company. This makes our ratios of profit per employee and value addition per employee rather remarkable at the top end of the company’s performance and certainly helps us in the selection procedure of the awards. We are very proud of our staff and we look after our staff and provide them with a challenging and rewarding atmosphere at work. This makes DFCC one of the employers of choice for the young and bright people who are coming out of universities and into the job market.

The third of our strengths, ladies and gentlemen, if I might just dwell on this: for 49 years we unswervingly served the role of being the development bank. There has not been any confusion as to our role or our mission in life. This has led us to be able to focus ourselves very sharply on the job in hand. We provide an excellent service to our customers. We acquired the Merc Bank and despite the infusion of considerable capital resources and human resources, we have been able to turn that bank around from a loss making outfit into a very comfortably profitable institution. Through these efforts DFCC Vardana Bank of which I am also the Chairman, we are able to provide a better service to our customers elsewhere in the country.

In looking to the future, we are convinced that a role always exits for a committed development banking institution in this country. We are ready to fill that role. We will continue to pursue our mission of providing superior financial solutions and nurturing business enterprises by adding value to our customers, shareholders, employees, and the nation.

We recognized that there is power in size and we are in the process of collaboration with likeminded, similarly oriented business organizations, and shall also consider merging with some of these organizations in the attempt to provide you with a larger financial services conglomerate in Sri Lanka.

Tilak De Zoysa, Chairman, Carsons Cumberbatch & Company

I am indeed greatly honored to speak a few words on this happy occasion when Carsons Cumberbatch and Company has received high recognition for being one of the TOP 10 business organizations in Sri Lanka. This is indeed a prestigious award that has recognized the significant growth and excellent performance of the organization. Such recognition must necessarily belong to those that make the organization work and would indeed serve a source of inspiration and motivation towards achieving greater heights.

On an occasion such as this, I consider it pertinent to pay tribute to the leadership team of Carsons that has taken the organization forward, setting the direction and cutting pathways into territories hitherto unexplored.

Honorable Prime Minister, we, the business leaders who are gathered here today, are deeply mindful that we live today in a globalized world where barriers between nations have collapsed and are collapsing at a rapid rate with funds flowing from country to country, exploiting business opportunities. The sustainability of large business organizations represented today shall surely rest on their ability to align themselves with this trend.

In this context, I am pleased to record the fact that the leadership of Carsons has made excellent progress by expanding its Malaysian oil palm plantations to Indonesia, which in a short period of time has resulted in generating approximately Rs 2.5 billion in revenue during the financial year 2004/05. This entry into unchartered territory reflects the will and pioneering spirit of the major shareholders.

Apart from the new strides we have so far made in the palm oil business with the backing of a state-of-the-art brewing technology, we continue to enhance our market leadership position by offering some of the world’s best beers. We also have a large portfolio of investments which currently accounts for approximately 10% of the Colombo Stock Exchange, and we continue to expand our real estate and leisure sector by holding the GSA for KLM, Air France and North West Airlines.

Ladies and gentlemen, you will agree that it is very important to have good governance and transparency of transactions to be seen within and outside the organization. In this regard, several years ago Carsons engaged one of the very best internationally reputed overseas auditors to review its corporate governance practices and to recommend changes that will bring the company on part with the best international norms. This same firm continues to review these practices on a bi-annual basis whilst at the same time, conducting risk-based internal audits across the businesses of the group both overseas and locally.

In concluding I wish to thank the Business Today magazine once more for organizing this grand event and take this opportunity to thank my colleagues and all employees of Carsons for their unstinting commitment to the company.

Business Today Top 10 Awards
2003 - 2004 Gallery

L–R: Glenda Parthipan, Minister Mangala Samaraweera, D H S Jayawardena, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Mathi K Parthipan, and Deputy Minister Dilan Perera

L–R: DHS Jayawardena, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Deputy Mayor Azath Salley, Mathi K Parthipan, and Ven Galaboda Gnanissara Thero

M P Dayasiri Jayasekera

MP Gayantha Karunathilake

L–R: MP Mahinda Samarasinghe, DHS Jayawardena, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, and Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva

L–R: Deputy Minister Sripathi Sooriyaarachchi, Thusitha Haloluwa, Nissanka Senadhipathi, Chairman, Avant-Garde Security Services

Inspector General of Police Chandra Fernando

Mr and Mrs Manilal Fernando, MP Dayasiri Jayasekera, MP Gayantha Karunathileke, MP Wijedasa Rajapaksa, and MP John Ameratunga

Deepani Silva, Sandya Mendis, Yashoda Wimaladharma, Chandani Seneviratne, and Ramzi Rahaman

Sabeetha Perera

L–R: Sangeetha Weeraratne, Kirthi Sri Karunaratne, Rosy Senanayake

Manilal Fernando with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa

The BT Options Team