Sri Lanka’s leading independent investment banking and wealth management firm, Asia Securities hosted its 3rd Annual Sri Lanka Investment Conference on 10th December 2019. The conference, which has expanded in scope from its financial sector focus in the past, was titled “2020; Big Innings on a Tricky Wicket?” It explored the outlook for business and investment opportunities in Sri Lanka in 2020, in the context of several local and global complexities that are expected to unfold. The conference featured an impressive line-up of local and international expert speakers and panellists and garnered strong interest from the investor community.

Delivering the opening keynote, Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, Senior Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka highlighted the economic need of the hour and the expected monetary policy direction in 2020. Renowned emerging markets expert Dr. Jim Walker, Chief Economist at Aletheia Capital based in Hong Kong and who counts over 30 years of experience evaluating financial markets, also spoke at the event. Dr. Walker’s controversial thesis on how artificially low interest rates and inflation have prevented the creative destruction of “zombie” companies and failed to generate economic growth globally was a definite highlight of the morning. The duo were followed by Dr. Ritu Verma, Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Mumbai-based Ankur Capital, a fund that makes early-stage investments in disruptive technologies in the Agri- and food sector. She shared some exciting avenues of new investments in the food value chain (from farm-to-plate) sparking ideas among the investor community.

Lakshini Fernando, Economist at Asia Securities, delivered the house view macro outlook for 2020, highlighting that the stimulus measures have the potential to drive up economic growth to 4.0% in 2020 through higher consumer spending, despite a slowing global economy. She further pointed out the need for a medium-term fiscal mandate in order to maintain sustainable growth. This was followed by a detailed sector outlook and equity strategy view presented by Kavinda Perera, Head of Research at Asia Securities. He argued that the markets are picking up from a bottom which was not seen for over a decade and while tax cuts were driving it, there’s a clear case for a re-rating. Further, he argued that while construction and consumer sectors will be the clear winners in 2020, the second-order impact from better corporate profits and consumer spending will support sectors such as banking and insurance as well.

The conference also included two top-level panel discussions; one exploring the thoughts and expectations for 2020 of some of Sri Lanka’s most prominent industry leaders, and the second exploring how to bet on the economic prospects through the eyes investment experts.

The industry leaders panel was comprised of Jonathan Alles, CEO of Hatton National Bank, Krishan Balendra, Chairman of John Keells Holdings, Sheamalee Wickramasingha, Group MD of Ceylon Biscuits Limited and Dr. Hans Wijeyasuriya, Chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and CEO for South Asia at Axiata Group, and was moderated by Dumith Fernando, Chairman of Asia Securities. This cross-sector panel highlighted their cautious optimism for 2020 on the back of the stimulus measures, while also pointing out the need for investment and capital availability for business growth. Dr. Wijeyasuriya in particular called on the private sector to harness the opportunities provided by the recent fiscal stimulus and engage in investment and business-building.

The panel of investment experts counted almost 100 years of collective experience in international and local capital markets – Dr. Naveen Gunewardane, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Lynear Wealth Management, Ajit Gunewardene, Founder and CEO of Bluestone Capital, Kanishka Perera, Chief Investment Officer at Asia Securities Wealth Management and Dr. Jim Walker – discussed the emerging themes and how it impacts the investment thesis across asset classes in 2020. Asia Securities Head of Research Kavinda Perera moderated this panel. There was wide consensus on the optimism in equities for 2020 coming mainly from stronger corporate fundamentals. From a foreign fund flow perspective, Dr. Jim highlighted that Sri Lankan fixed income stands to attract higher fund flow than equities while more selective investments into equities were likely.

Asia Securities has been the leader in investor events in Sri Lanka, and annually hosts several forums that bring the capital market community closer to underlying factors that drive performance of their investments. The events are hosted by the firm’s market-leading Research division which has the most comprehensive product offering in the country covering macroeconomic, thematic, sector and company research.

Commenting on the successful conclusion of the event, Dumith Fernando, Chairman of Asia Securities, said, “While business leaders showed improved business confidence, there are factors driving uncertainty in capital markets. The conference proceedings helped investors decipher which of these factors were of greater or lesser relevance to the investment outlook.”

This is the first investment conference held in Sri Lanka after the conclusion of the presidential election and offers the investment community an opportunity to recalibrate its investment strategy based on shifting economic and business realities. DailyFT was the official newspaper partner of the event.

About Asia Securities

Asia Securities is a leading Investment Bank in Sri Lanka providing services across Equities, Research, Investment Banking, and Wealth Management. Founded in 1991, the firm has re-emerged as a multi-award-winning platform led by the industry’s most internationally experienced management team. It is the local market partner for several of the world’s preeminent investment banks and brokerage houses, serving Multi-national and Local Corporates, Financial Institutions, Public Sector Entities, Multilateral Development Banks, High Net-worth Individuals, Family Offices, and Retail Investors across multiple geographies. The Annual Investment Conference series is an integral part of Asia Securities’ calendar, that focuses on in-depth discussions with veterans in industry and policy-making and has garnered significant investor interest in the last few years.