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South Asia

Sri Lanka’s Commercial Bank combats Covid

Commercial Bank of Sri Lanka, the island’s biggest non-government bank, has had a relatively good crisis thanks to strong discipline and leadership.

The Sri Lanka rupee. Photo: Reuters

Sivakrishnarajah Renganathan, chief executive of Sri Lanka’s Commercial Bank, is one of the lender’s lifers: he joined straight out of school, in 1981, and ascended to the top of the country’s biggest non-government bank in July 2018.

His first months as boss were a success. ComBank announced its highest-ever annual profit after tax – SLRs17.86 billion ($90.3 million) – for calendar 2018, and by early 2019, it was on course to do even better.

The economy had taken off and tourism, one of the island’s biggest earners and sources of employment, was roaring. In the first three months alone of 2019, tourist arrivals topped 1.9 million, compared to 2.33 million for the whole of the previous year. Sri Lanka’s two biggest hotels, Colombo’s Cinnamon Grand and the shiny new Shangri-La, were packed, their restaurants heaving with guests.

A decade after the end of the civil war, Renganathan thought, this was surely the peace dividend Sri Lanka had longed for, with even better times ahead as ComBank prepared to celebrate its centenary in 2020.

We thought 2020 would be a much better year … a lot of things were planned.

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