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Sri Lanka JKH Waterfront project viable; be corporate activity hub: offcial

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Sri Lanka’s John Keells Holdings is confident of the viability of its Waterfront development which will target the corporate conference market in the region, an official said with gaming appearing to be off the table.

"Our confidence level is very high that business proposition remains intact, and continues to give us confidence of the viability of the project," JKH Deputy Chairman Ajit Gunewardene said.

"The core of the project to target the conference and corporate incentive market from the region "It is a very large market that today the country cannot cater to, because it does not have the facilities."

JKH’s Waterfront project was originally also expected to have a casino but the new Maithripala Sirisena administration has appeared to have stopped new casinos. JKH told shareholders it would continue to engage the government on the issue.

Regional Corporate Hub

Gunewardene said the project which will be "hub for corporate activities".

"The space within the project at any given time can accommodate up to three thousand delegates," he said. "So that is the driver of footfalls – essentially targeting the subcontinent corporate incentive and conference market."

Sri Lanka could also host large international conferences and exhibitions of the style now found in Shanghai and Singapore.

The project will also have commercial space and 450 apartment, creating a "mega community within the city," (of Colombo) Gunewardene said.

A syndicated loan for the project from a foreign bank was also in place, he said.

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JKH’s stock has received a battering since the new administration came and stopped casino projects and slapped retrospective taxes on companies making large profits. But analysts who have knowledge of political workings say the administration appeared to have made up with the group.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe kept JKH name out of a verbal statement made in parliament last month bashing several businesses that worked closely with the last administration, though in a prepared text of the speech the firm was included.

JKH is the largest capitalized company on the Colombo Stock Exchange.