Sri Lanka Maldives investment banking partners work on US55mn in deals

Saturday, 4 September 2010 15:18

Sri Lanka's Acuity and Millennium Capital Management (MCM) Holdings of Maldives is partnering to provide investment banking services in the archipelago with deals worth 55 million US dollars in the pipeline, officials said.
Acuity, a unit of Sri Lanka's listed DFCC Bank and Hatton National Bank is working with MCM Holdings initially to finance hotel sector firms in the tourist paradise, Acuity chief Ray Abeywardena said.

But he said there was potential in healthcare and education.

MCM Holdings chairman Mohamed Jaleel, a former state minister for finance and a governor of the Maldives Monetary Authority said a fully fledged investment banking service provider was needed by businesses in the archipelago for years.

"Maldives' economy is driven by the tourism," Jaleel said. "One of the first projects we will enter will be in tourism. We will find other potential areas in due course."

Shehan Cooray, who heads of Acuity's corporate finance division, said the partnership was working on a 15 million US dollar debt syndication for an undisclosed leisure firm and about 40 million dollars worth other deals were being looked at.

The firm was securitizing lease receivables from an investor who had sub-leased an island to an international hotel operator, he said.

Ahmed Adeeb, chief operating officer of Millennium Capital Management, the finance arm of MCM Holdings said there was renewed interest in hotel investment after the Maldivian government changed the terms of island leases.

State owned uninhabited islands were earlier leased for 25 years with large projects going up to 35 years. But a new law passed in the parliament which is due to be ratified by the president shortly had extended the lease period up to 50 years.

"Companies that sells 55 percent of the stock to the public may be able to get leases up to 90 years, though the details are still not clear," he said.

Officials say there is potential for growth in the fledgling Maldivian capital market where so far only a handful of companies are listed and trading is not active.

As Maldives has freed its capital market its people were investing abroad including in the Colombo stock market.

Jaleel said a formal link with Acuity will also help Maldivians invest in Colombo more easily.

Such freedoms are still not available to Sri Lankan though current Central Bank governor Nivard Cabraal is planning to liberalize the capital account in stages.

Sri Lanka slapped draconian exchange controls on its people and made moving their hard earned savings to other markets a crime within three years of creating a money printing central bank.

Unlike Sri Lanka's central bank, the Maldives Monetary Authority has a strong record in keeping its currency strong and rarely prints money to cause 'foreign exchange shortages' and break the dollar peg with the Rufiyaa.

Sri Lanka's continuously depreciating currency and decades of deficit spending have made its citizens work as domestic servants in the Maldives.

However a sudden increase in civil service salaries ahead of the last presidential elections and a shortfall in revenue during a global downturn triggered central bank financing of the fiscal deficit, pushing the islands into an International Monetary Fund deal.


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