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IE Singapore partners SBF to help Singapore companies in consumer, tourism and infrastructure access opportunities in Sri Lanka

24 January 2018 [Singapore] - Following the signing of the Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (SLSFTA), three Singapore companies sealed deals with Sri Lankan partners today. To capture opportunities in this growing market, Food Studio1, Ark Holdings2 and HPL Hotels & Resorts3 signed four agreements for new projects across food, aquaculture, hospitality and infrastructure at the Sri Lanka-Singapore Business Forum 2018 (Please see Annex 1 for details). The forum was organised by International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, Singapore Business Federation (SBF), Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and Sri Lanka Singapore Business Council. The signings were witnessed by Sri Lankan Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade, Malik Samarawickrama and Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran, who is in Sri Lanka for the SLSFTA signing.

With an economy worth S$107.5 billion4 in 2016, Sri Lanka is targeted to grow at 5% in 20185, among the fastest in Asia. As Sri Lanka’s third largest import partner, Singapore has close trade ties with Sri Lanka. With Sri Lanka’s strategic location along the East-West shipping route and the new SLSFTA lowering trade barriers, Singapore companies can leverage Sri Lanka’s connectivity to enter markets in South Asia. IE Singapore has been partnering Singapore companies closely to explore opportunities in Sri Lanka through sharing knowledge on market landscape and latest trends, and expanding their network of potential partners and clients. This year, IE Singapore will work with trade associations and chambers to organise five missions to Sri Lanka.

As Sri Lanka rapidly urbanises, Singapore companies can tap growing opportunities in consumer, infrastructure, tourism and trade. Sri Lanka’s consumer spending has been growing steadily over the years and reached an all-time high of S$69 billion in 20166. With the rise of consumerism, Singapore SME Food Studio is partnering Shangri La Mall Colombo and Havelock City Mall to set up food courts in four malls across the country. Mr Lim Tai Toon, Chairman, Food Studio, said, “Food Studio’s venture into Sri Lanka is underpinned by our expectation of rapid growth in Sri Lanka after the civil war ended in 2009. Since then, the potential of Sri Lanka as a market can be gauged by its strong average GDP growth of 6.2% annually. We therefore want to position ourselves to tap the potential and rapid growth.”

Sri Lanka ranks among the top tourist locations globally with S$4.6 billion tourist dollars7 spent last year. The Sri Lankan government set up the Board of Investment (BOI) to attract foreign direct investments and increase funding for infrastructure projects8 in the country. As a key tourist hub, the market has growing needs in tourism infrastructure such as hotels and tourist attractions. Singapore companies’ recent infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka include NEXT Story Group’s NEXT Hotel in Colombo City Centre and WEC Engineers & Constructors’ aviation fuel piping project in Sri Lanka’s Bandaranaike International Airport.

Mr Tan Soon Kim, Assistant Chief Executive Officer (CEO), IE Singapore said, “The SLSFTA and Sri Lanka’s strong push for foreign investments and economic reforms open up more opportunities for Singapore and Sri Lankan companies to collaborate in sectors such as consumer, infrastructure, tourism and trade. The agreements signed today are testament to the growth potential Sri Lanka presents to Singapore companies. IE Singapore has been working closely with the Sri Lankan government and private sector to increase Singapore companies’ access to the market. In 2016, IE Singapore signed a MOU with Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development, and I’m glad to see many Singapore companies exploring Sri Lanka’s Western Region. IE Singapore will also continue to work closely with SBF to help Singapore companies, especially SMEs, access opportunities in Sri Lanka.”

Mr S.S. Teo, Mission Leader, SBF Chairman and Managing Director of Pacific International Lines, said, “This is the Federation’s fourth visit to Sri Lanka since 2008, with our last visit in June 2016. Today, we have a 32-strong delegation comprising 24 companies and organisations across the ICT, real estate development, hospitality, infrastructure, logistics and general trade sectors. The Singapore business community fully welcomes and supports the SLSFTA. With this agreement in place, there will be an even greater impetus for business activities between Singapore and Sri Lanka.”

Singapore companies that have seen success in Sri Lanka include Prima, which houses Sri Lanka’s largest flour mill; Shing Kwan Group, which developed the iconic World Trade Centre in Colombo and Havelock City, the largest integrated development in Sri Lanka. Others include BreadTalk, Certis Cisco, Charles & Keith, Food Empire, Meinhardt, Surbana Jurong and Woh Hup Construction.

IE Singapore shares strong ties with Sri Lankan government agencies, including the BOI. To grow its economy, the Sri Lankan government is also actively encouraging its private sector to expand overseas, especially to Southeast Asia. Singapore companies, with their expertise and networks in the region, are good partners for them to access Southeast Asia. To support Sri Lanka in this drive, IE Singapore is working with BOI, Export Development Board (EDB) and the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade (MODSIT) to share best practices to help Sri Lanka create a conducive business environment and support the internationalisation of Sri Lankan companies.

150 business representatives from Singapore and Sri Lankan companies attended the Sri Lanka-Singapore Business Forum 2018 to discuss opportunities for deeper Singapore-Sri Lanka collaboration, network and connect with potential partners and clients through business matching sessions.

Annex 1 - List of agreements

Speech by SBF Chairman Mr SS Teo at the Sri Lanka-Singapore Business Forum

1 Food Studio is a food court operator
2 Ark Holdings is an aquaculture company specialising in wild harvest trading and seafood distribution
3 HPL Hotels & Resorts is a hospitality management company
4 The World Bank
5 Asian Development Bank
6 Trading Economics 
7 Sri Lanka Tourism Strategic Plan 
8 Sri Lanka's Urban Development Authority (UDA) has plans to develop many areas in Colombo for tourism, housing, leisure and entertainment.

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