An Echelon Media Company
Friday June 9th, 2023

Sri Lanka state private banks on watch for downgrade: Fitch

ECONOMYNEXT – Fitch Ratings has placed has placed 13 state and private banks in Sri Lanka under watch for possible downgrade (rating watch negative) due to forex shortages in the banking system.

The rating watch negative “reflects heightened near-term downside risk stemming from constrained access to foreign-currency funding and the resulting indications of stress experienced by the banks in the system,” Fitch said.

“This risk is exacerbated by the sovereign’s credit profile (Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR): CC, Long-Term Local-Currency IDR: CCC) and the ensuing risks to the stability of the financial system.”

The full statement is reproduced below:

Fitch Places 13 Sri Lankan Banks on Rating Watch Negative

Fitch Ratings – Colombo – 12 Apr 2022: Fitch Ratings has placed the National Long-Term Ratings of 13 Sri Lankan banks on Rating Watch Negative (RWN). The banks are:

-People’s Bank (Sri Lanka) (PB)

-Commercial Bank of Ceylon PLC

-Hatton National Bank PLC

-Sampath Bank PLC

-National Development Bank PLC


-Seylan Bank PLC

-Nations Trust Bank PLC

-Pan Asia Banking Corporation PLC

-Union Bank of Colombo PLC

-Amana Bank PLC

-SANASA Development Bank PLC

-Housing Development Finance Corporation Bank of Sri Lanka (HDFC)

A full list of rating actions is at the end of this rating action commentary. Fitch will review the National Ratings of Sri Lankan financial institutions that are not mentioned in this commentary separately. Fitch has also taken rating action on Bank of Ceylon; please see Fitch Places Bank of Ceylon on Rating Watch Negative.


The RWN reflects heightened near-term downside risk stemming from constrained access to foreign-currency funding and the resulting indications of stress experienced by the banks in the system. This risk is exacerbated by the sovereign’s credit profile (Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR): CC, Long-Term Local-Currency IDR: CCC) and the ensuing risks to the stability of the financial system.

We believe mounting currency stress increases the likelihood of restrictions being imposed on banks’ ability to service their obligations in foreign currency – excluding
HDFC, as the bank does not have any outstanding foreign-currency obligations – and local currency in the event of a sovereign default, or prior, should confidence deteriorate.

We aim to resolve the RWN in the next six months, depending on the evolution of the banks’ funding and liquidity positions, which could result in multiple notch downgrades.

We believe the domestic banks’ foreign-currency funding and liquidity positions are prone to sudden changes amid already weak creditor sentiment. Loan and deposit dollarisation for the sector was at 18% of total loans and 17% of total deposits as at end-2021.

Sri Lanka’s operating environment remains challenging and our negative outlook on the score reflects the significant near- to medium-term downside risk presented by the weakening sovereign credit profile, as spillover effects could damage the country’s economic performance.

This has lead us to revise our 2022 outlook on the banking sector to ‘Deteriorating’, from ‘Neutral’.

Macroeconomic challenges are likely to be greater than we initially anticipated which could result in a sharp deterioration in asset quality and impaired profitability metrics that expose the banks to capital deficiencies.

The RWN on the ratings of the banks’ senior unsecured debentures, where assigned, stem from the RWN on the corresponding banks’ National Long-Term Ratings. Sri Lanka rupee-denoted senior debt, where applicable, is rated at the same level as the National Long-Term Rating in accordance with Fitch criteria. This is because the issues rank equally with the claims of the banks’ other senior unsecured creditors.


The RWN on the ratings of subordinated debt, where assigned, also stems from the RWN on the corresponding National Long-Term Ratings. Sri Lanka rupee-denominated subordinated debt, where applicable, is rated two notches below banks’ National Long-Term Ratings. This is in line with our baseline notching for loss severity for this type of debt and our expectations of poor recovery.


Factors that could, individually or collectively, lead to negative rating action/downgrade:

The RWN reflects rising risks to the banks’ ratings from funding stresses, which could lead to multiple notch downgrades. We expect to resolve the RWN in the next six months once the impact on the banks’ credit profiles becomes more apparent. Potential triggers that could lead to a multiple notch downgrade include:

– funding stress that impedes banks’ repayment ability

– significant banking-sector intervention by authorities that constrain banks’ ability to service their obligations

– a temporary negotiated waiver or standstill agreement following a payment default on a large financial obligation

– where Fitch believes a bank has entered into a grace or cure period following non-payment of a large financial obligation.

A downgrade of the sovereign rating stemming from a default event could also lead to a downgrade of the banks’ ratings.

Senior and subordinated debt ratings will move in tandem with the National Long-Term Rating

Factors that could, individually or collectively, lead to positive rating action/upgrade:

There is limited scope for upward rating action given the RWN.

PB has a 1.78% equity stake in Fitch Ratings Lanka Ltd. No shareholder other than Fitch, Inc. is involved in the day-to-day rating operations of, or credit reviews undertaken by, Fitch Ratings Lanka Ltd.


The principal sources of information used in the analysis are described in the Applicable Criteria.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment

Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sri Lanka facing unknown claims over halted airport terminal, Rs15bn in bills

ECONOMYNEXT – State-run Airport and Aviation Services of Sri Lanka, has 15 billion rupees of bills and unknown additional claims after a contractor suspended work on a Japan funded terminal, following a sovereign default.

Sri Lanka ran out of foreign reserves in April 2022 after two years of money printing by macro-economists to mis-target interest rates for stimulus (output gap targeting) and defaulted amid forex shortages.

“Due to suspension and termination, there will be severe financial impacts to AASL..” the agency said in its annual report, which was noted in an emphasis of matter by Sri Lanka’s Auditor General.

The costs included delay charges to the Contractor, cost of plant and materials ordered with additional warehouse charges, cost for the care of works (safety, operational, environmental), costs for maintenance of incomplete works at the site, loss due to deterioration of the material, cost of demobilization and fixed rentals of temporary works, contractor’s equipment, cost of repatriation of the contracts staff and labor employed.

There could contractor’s claims arising out of suspension and termination, possible litigation charges by the subcontractors, which will be back charged by the main contractor,

Japan’s Taisei Corporation has already submitted bills of 6.35 billion yen (15.8 billion rupees at balance sheet date).

There could contractor’s claims arising out of suspension and termination, possible litigation charges by the subcontractors, which will be back charged by the main contractor, the report said.

A final claim has not yet been made.

Meanwhile Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva told parliament this week that Japan had agreed to resume the project after debt re-structuring is complete.

After Sri Lanka’s government defaulted a circular was issued not to settle loans obtained by government entities.

AASL has said it had funds to continue to service loans, and informed the Treasury and the Japan International Co-operation Agency.

“Despite the circular issued by General Treasury, Company in writing communicated to JICA as well as to General Treasury that we are expecting to make loan repayments and continue the project as company has enough funds,” the company said.

“However at that time JICA requested an endorsement from Ministry of Finance regarding the capability of loan repayments.

“Since that endorsement was not available due to IMF restructuring programme, constructor temporally suspended the project.” (Colombo/June09/2023)

Continue Reading

Sri Lanka’s Peoples’ Leasing to buy 33-pct of First Capital

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s People’s Leasing and Finance said it had entered into an agreement with Janashakthi Limited to buy a 33 percent stake in First Capital Holdings Plc for 4.95 billion rupees.

People’s Leasing will pay 37.10 rupees for a share of First Capital Holdings.

The transaction is subject to approval of the central bank and other regulatory authorities applicable to the two parties, the company said in a stock exchange filing.

If the transaction goes ahead People’s Leasing will make a mandatory offer to minority shareholders. (Colombo/June08/2023)

Continue Reading

Sri Lanka’s police, health workers mostly violate rights of LGBTQ community – report

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s law implementing police officials and health workers among the top in violating the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ), according to a study, citing the complaints at the local Human Rights Commission and police.

A study conducted by Bridge to Equality, a civil rights group concerned over LGBTQ in Sri Lanka, shows that 160 rights violation cases reported to the police out of a total 235  during the 18 month period through March 31, 2023, are involved with police and health sector workers.

The data showed that police have been the perpetrators in 96 rights violation cases, while 64 cases are involved with health workers including medical officers.

“The analysis shows that some LGBTQ persons are reluctant to go to the authorities (such as the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka or the Police) due to the existing penal laws and various social stigmas that continues to exist in the society,” the Bridge to Equality said in the conclusion of the report based on the 235 complaints.

“These stigmas may include inaccurate perceptions that LGBTQ persons are psychologically unwell or that it is a trend or ‘lifestyle’ that conflicts with the Sri Lankan culture.”

The human rights violations have been involved with article 12 of the constitution which is involved with equality before the law and protection from discrimination, followed by article 11 which is linked to protection from torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment.

The LGBTQ community also faces unlawful arrest, the report said.

Sri Lanka’s Penal Code, which states that “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” is a criminal offence” makes gayism  and lesbianism against the country’s law.

Meanwhile, the transgender community has been targeted by another section of the Penal Code which criminalises “pretending to be some other person.”

Civil groups such as the Human Rights Watch and iProbono have said that individuals in the LGBTQ+ community have been subjected to forced anal and vaginal exams as well as being subjected to homophobic slurs from hospital staff.

The Health Ministry admitted that its workers have been violating the rights of LGBTQ.

“The LGBTQ+ community has been subjected to physical, verbal and sexual harassment by those in the medical field,” Anwar Hamdani, Director of Tertiary Care Services at the Ministry of Health, told EconomyNext.

Police Spokesman Nihal Thalduwa said only transgender people are legalized in Sri Lanka.

“Others are not legally accepted in the country. That’s how the police get included in this. Take lesbian as an example. There can be some who like it. However, even if there are people who are in favour of that, if some people complain about it, since it is not legally accepted then the police will have to take actions against it,” Thalduwa told EconomyNext.

“Since it is illegal, police will have to act on the existing law.  Police do not have anything against it if that is legal. Maybe because of that there may be a perception saying the police are harassing them. But it is not like the police are going after individuals and harassing them.”

“However, when it comes to transgender issues the Police commissioner has issued circulars asking all police officers to take necessary precautions to not to harm the individuals privacy.”

While the repeal of the Penal Code that criminalizes gayism and lesbianism is currently in the process of being debated in parliament, convictions against those in the community are being carried out by the police.

“Other than a transition between genders, LGBTQ+ activity is unlawful in the country,” Thalduwa said.

“Therefore, those who are against the LGBTQ+ community look to the police to curb these activities. Because of its unlawful nature, convictions are being carried out.” (Colombo/June 08/2023)


Continue Reading