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National Budget 2015: Populist, yet on track

Oct 28, 2014 2:31:04 PM - www.ft.lk

President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa presented Sri Lanka’s National Budget for 2015 in Parliament on 24 October.
The Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) expects to achieve a fiscal deficit of 5.0% for 2014E (vs. 5.9% in 2013), compared to its original deficit target of 5.2% for 2014E on account of lower than expected public investment. Furthermore, the GoSL expects to reduce its fiscal deficit to 4.6% in 2015E keeping in line with the policy guide lines formulated within the Medium Term Macro Fiscal Framework (MTMFF) for 2013-2016.

In line with MTMFF policies, the GoSL expects to continuously reduce deficits down to 3% and thereby improving debt to GDP level to ~65% by 2017E. This is expected to create a conducive environment for greater investment which is in turn forecast to result in a 7-8% real GDP growth in the near term.
Main focal points of the 2015E budget included proposals on penalty driven better tax compliance, continuation of social safety nets whilst strengthening tax collection mechanisms. The 2015E fiscal budget largely included populist proposals such as pay hikes targeting low and mid income groups, subsidies and concessions targeting high employment sectors amid a possible presidential election expected in early 1Q2015E. Nevertheless, the GoSL continues to maintain public investment at ~6% levels whilst focusing on a low cost financing debt management strategy.
We have highlighted the key proposals of the Budget 2015, including the potential impact on key sectors and selected listed companies.
It should be noted that the proposals laid out in the budget are not officially finalised by the GoSL, with information also limited in some instances, until the release of gazettes, and thereby the details on some of the proposals could be altered in the weeks ahead.



By CT CLSA Securities
Tax, EPF and ETF arrears to be refinanced at 6% p.a.

  • A special refinance facility scheme which is repayable within five years will be provided by all banks at 6% interest rate to facilitate the settlement of arrears in tax/EPF/ETF up to 31 Dec 2010 (settlements to be concluded within six months)
  • Property corresponding to such arrears of default taxpayers who do not make use of the aforementioned opportunity to be confiscated
  • The above proposal is expected to raise Rs.40 b revenue



Impact analysis

  •  This will encourage higher tax compliance given the low interest cost involved whilst helping the fiscal coffers. Effectiveness of the above proposal is likely to be key in achieving the fiscal deficit target for 2015E as it accounts for ~60% of GoSL’s incremental revenue proposals for 2015E
  • Banks that provide refinance facilities to fund tax/EPF/ETF arrears are unlikely to have a material negative impact given the lower volume involved from a sector angle and due to average market prime lending par int. rate


PAYE Tax reduced

  • Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Tax highest slab to be reduced to 16% from 24% w.e.f. 01 Apr 2015



Impact Analysis

  •  This will increase the disposable income of the general consumer resulting in higher purchasing power
  • From the GoSL’s perspective, the revenue foregone from the above proposal is expected to be negligible

Employer’s minimum EPF contribution increased to 14%

  •  Employer’s minimum EPF contribution increased to 14% from 12% of gross salary



Impact Analysis

  • This will impact salary expenses across the board for all listed and unlisted business organisations whilst increasing retirement benefits of employees



Restrict entities with foreign ownership acquiring land in Sri Lanka
Certain exemptions given under the bill
Foreign entities will be able to lease land for a maximum of 99 years


  • The “Land (Restrictions on Alienation)” bill, passed in Parliament on 20 Oct 2014, is expected to limit purchase of land by foreigners and entities with over 50% of foreign ownership

Rs. 2 b is expected to be raised from the proposal
The provisions of the Act are implemented w.e.f. 01 Jan 2013

Detailed provisions

  •  However, there are certain exemptions given under the bill, namely;

Any land transferred to a Diplomatic Mission of another State
Condominium Parcel situated on or above the fourth floor of a building specified under the Apartment
Ownership Law
A transfer consequent to a decision of the Cabinet of Ministers taken prior to Jan 1, 2013
Transfer to relocate a headquartered building
A transfer to a next of kin
A transfer to a dual citizen of Sri Lanka
Transfer to a bank with foreign ownership over 50%, where;

  • Land is taken for recovery of mortgage, in execution of a decree of court to enforce the recovery of a loan given by the bank

Transfer to a finance leasing institution with foreign ownership over 50%, where;

  • Land has been mortgaged to as a security for a lease, in order to execute a lease and an agreement to sell or a loan and an agreement to sell, in execution of a decree of court

Land transferred under Strategic Development Act

  •  Foreign entities will be able to lease land for a maximum of 99 years, subject to a land lease tax of 15% of the total rental payable for the entire duration of the lease which is payable upfront
  •  Land lease tax of 7.5% will be applicable in cases of; entities being operated for consecutive period of ten years, condominium parcel situated on or above the fourth floor of a building specified under the provisions of the Apartment Ownership Law, where the period of lease is less than 35 years, condominium parcel situated below the fourth floor of a building with lease term less than 99 years, lease of land situated within BOI zone, tourist development area under the Tourism Act, industrial estate under the Industrial Development Act, area declared by the Minister
  •  There are also exemptions provided on the land lease tax for those who are exempted from restrictions on buying land

Impact analysis

  •  The proposal potentially impacts listed entities (over 50% foreign ownership), especially those in property development, such as John Keells Holdings (JKH) and Overseas Realty (OSEA)
  •  At a first glance, the act raises confusion amongst foreign investors and might bring questions as to whether the act is in line with the long term Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) targets of GoSL
  • Further, the legislation would bring difficulties in funding of leased projects as the upfront lease tax would require a further significant capital commitment and may limit participation by foreign investors
  • It would even require listed entities with less than 50% of foreign ownership to constantly monitor the shareholder mix and may even take costly measures when there is a change in mix
  •  On a positive note, big ticket projects are likely to get exemptions subject to being classified under Strategic Development Act
  • Further, we expect that even some smaller scale projects would be granted exemptions on case by case basis considering the best interest and long term development of Sri Lanka
  •  The final amended act is yet to be drafted and may have added flexibilities granted to improve the FDIs



Prices of key utilities such as electricity, fuel, water and LPG reduced

  • Tariff reduced by 25% to household consumers; w.e.f. 16 Sep 2014
  • Corporate electricity tariff reduced by 15% w.e.f. 01 Nov 2014. Create a separate tariff band for industries with monthly consumption of <300 units; 25% cost reduction to such Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)




  • Petrol and diesel price reduced by ~3% per litre, while kerosene price reduced by 19%, w.e.f 16 Sep 2014



  • Water charges up to 25 units reduced by 10% for household consumers, w.e.f 01 Nov 2014


LP Gas

  • Price of 12.5kg gas cylinder (largely in domestic usage) reduced by ~10%, w.e.f 09 Oct 2014


Impact analysis

  • While reduction of corporate electricity tariff and fuel charges will have a positive impact on companies in all sectors (mostly for manufacturing sector), other utility reductions will largely benefit domestic consumers
  • Reduction in key utility prices will result in a further softening of inflation


Financial VAT reduced from 12% to 11%

  •  Financial Value Added Tax (FVAT) reduced from 12% to 11% w.e.f. 01 Jan 2015


Impact Analysis

  •  At present banks in Sri Lanka pay FVAT at 12% on value added (i.e. ~PBT excluding personnel expenses)
  • The proposal is expected to positively impact listed banks. However, we do not forecast ROEs to be impacted materially given the insignificant downward tax revision
  • This proposal is expected to reduce lease rentals especially benefiting listed Non Bank Finance Institutions (NBFIs) that predominantly focus on leasing revenue as VAT comprises a significant portion out of leasing rental


Higher interest income for the elderly

  • Offer a 12% annual interest rate for deposits of pensioners and elders, who maintain their deposits in State Banks
  • Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) is expected to exempt Statutory Reserve Requirement (SRR) on individual deposits maintained by elderly people in all Licensed Commercial Banks (LCBs)
  • The CBSL has also permitted Finance Companies to pay 11% interest on such deposits
  • Interest income of deposits held by elders exempted from tax
  • Withholding tax (WHT) on interest reduced from 8% to 2.5% w.e.f. 01 Jan 2015



Impact analysis

  • At present 1 year LCB FD rate stands between ~4% – 6% with a 1% upward adjustment for senior citizens
  • This is expected to increase the disposable income of the aging population of the country who largely depend on deposit interest income as a major source of income
  • We believe this proposal is highly likely to be applicable only to senior citizens who already maintain accounts with GoSL banks and thus there will not be a flight of deposits to GoSL banks from the private sector banks
  • However, if the interpretation of the proposal is not applicable only to senior citizens who already maintain accounts but applicable also to new senior citizen accounts opened with GoSL owned banks, there could be a flight of deposits from private sector banks to GoSL owned banks whilst also resulting in higher overall market interest rates in the near term



Excise duties on tobacco and alcohol the second largest revenue proposal

  • Consolidate Excise Duties to raise additional Rs. 14 b
  • With immediate effect, in lieu of VAT and Nation Building Tax (NBT):

Excise Duty will be charged on manufacture of liquor
Customs Duty & Cess will be charged on import of liquor
Excise Duty will be charged on manufacture of cigarettes

  • Excise duties on cigarettes and alcohol were increased w.e.f 10 Oct 2014; gazetted without being proposed in the Budget as has been the norm in recent years. Consequently, cigarette and alcohol players increased prices of most varieties of their products w.e.f 10 Oct 2014. We currently do not anticipate a material impact from the consolidation of excise duties



Impact analysis – Tobacco

  •  Legal local monopoly Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC) raised prices of its cigarette sticks >84mm by Rs.1.00-2.00, comprising the John Player Gold Leaf range (~83% of sales mix) and the premium range (~2% of sales mix)
  • The latest price revision was implemented a couple of months later than anticipated and the price hike (~9%) is lower than forecast (~13%)
  • GoSL targets to raise additional Rs.6 b though GoSL levies earned have been under pressure amid easing product price inelasticity and declining sales volumes. Next excise duty led price revision is expected in 3Q2015E



Impact analysis – Alcohol

  • Distilleries Co. of Sri Lanka (DIST), holding ~73% legal arrack market share, raised prices of most varieties by ~Rs.60 per 750ml bottle, including for “Extra Special” (Rs.950 per 750ml; ~88-90% of DIST’s sales mix)
  • Lion Brewery (Ceylon), commanding ~90% beer market position, increased most product prices by Rs.10-20, including its key product “Strong Beer” (Rs.200 for Rs.625ml bottle; strong beer segment – alcohol content >5% – accounts for ~90% of LION’s sales mix and total local beer industry)
  • Hard alcohol sales volumes pressurised amidst consumer shift in demand to lower priced strong beer (with 8.8% alcohol strength) and illicit segment
  • GoSL targets to raise additional Rs.8 b from the alcohol industry. GoSL levies earned, particularly from the hard alcohol space, have however been under pressure, amid lower sales and sharp growth in the illicit hard alcohol segment. Next excise duty led price revision is expected in 3Q2015E
  • The removal of VAT and NBT would result in the inability for alcohol and tobacco players to claim the input VAT and NBT which was allowed thus far
  • Given GoSL’s temperance program and that tobacco and liquor are not captured in the inflation basket, excise duty increases on tobacco and liquor is one of the GoSL’s most popular mechanisms to raise revenue; combined accounting for ~13% of total GoSL revenue



Impose Excise Special Provision tax on motor vehicle imports

  • Impose Excise Special Provision Tax on motor vehicle imports, in lieu of all multiple taxes at the point of import
  • Customs based taxes on all electric cars will be reduced to 25%
  • Above proposal expected to raise additional revenue of Rs.5 b



Impact analysis

  • Decrease in the prices of small motorcars and vans under 1000 cc engine capacity due to the new simple tax system. Possible modest easing in the prices of hybrid vehicles. There would be a difference between the cost of stocks imported and cleared prior to 25 Oct 2014 and thereafter
  • Additional revenue expected to be driven by increased demand for motor vehicles in above segments as well as renewed interest in fully electric vehicles following a reduction in customs based taxes on all electric cars
  • This is expected to stimulate import financing, resulting in better top line growth for import financiers such as commercial banks and Non Bank Financial Institutions (NBFIs)
  • However, this could negatively impact the external value of the currency on account of the expected relatively higher import demand

Concessionary duty permits to Sri Lankans working overseas

  • Grant concessionary duty permits similar to those given to public servants to high income earning Sri Lankans working overseas for the importation of a motor vehicle to the value of 60% of foreign exchange they remit to Sri Lankan banks



Impact analysis

  • Proposal aimed at enhancing inward remittances (Jan to Aug 2014 remittances stood at $4.5 b)
  • Increased demand for motor vehicles – possible improvement in volumes in near – medium term in Diesel & Motor Engineering (DIMO) and United Motors Lanka (UML) through demand from permit holders


Sri Lanka Transport Board to acquire 2,000 buses

  • Import 500 small buses to expand rural transport services
  • In order to strengthen the bus fleet of Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) with 2,000 buses, a public investment of Rs.1 b has been provided to SLTB
  • Duty concessions to import new buses, engines and gearboxes for any buses that have operated at least for five years
  • Possible positive impact on Lanka Ashok Leyland (ASHO) and leading NBFIs with high exposure to leasing such as People’s Leasing & Finance (PLC) – PLC is the market leader in leasing and hire purchase; lorries and buses comprise ~30% of leasing advances


Impact analysis
Tax-free threshold initially set at Rs.500mn per quarter in Budget 2013

  •  Reduce the tax-free threshold applicable for VAT on wholesale and retail trade at Rs.100mn per quarter (from Rs.250mn per quarter) and reduce VAT from 12% to 11% w.e.f 01 Jan 2015
  • Limit charges imposed by supermarkets to suppliers, not to exceed more than 25% of the Maximum Retail Price (MRP) marked on domestically supplied products
  • Request supermarkets and retail shops to reduce prices of essential goods by 10%
  • The reduction of the tax-free threshold – as implemented in the previous two years – will expand the tax base and further level the playing field for the larger organised trade players such as Cargills (Ceylon) (CARG), Ceylon Cold Stores (CCS) and Richard Pieris & Company (RICH)
  • Reduction of VAT by 1% to provide some relief to retailers, whose margins were impacted with the fixing of the turnover liable for VAT at 75% in 2014
  • Margins potentially thinned by limiting retailers to keep a maximum 25% margin over suppliers, though implementation is unclear as this is largely a commercial call
  • Further clarification needed on the reduction of essential goods as supermarkets anyway charge different rates on several essential items, which are not subject to a MRP. State-owned “Sathosa” supermarket chain could be leveraged to reduce prices and encourage competition to follow suit


Impact Analysis
Betting and Gaming levy to raise an additional Rs.2.5 b

  • Increase the Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) levy to 10% (from 5%)
  • Levy a $100 per person entrance fee to premises where casino entertainment activities take place
  • The above proposals will be implemented w.e.f 01 Jan 2015 and are to raise an additional revenue of Rs. 2.5b


Impact analysis

  • The entry fee of $100 seems to be charged on both foreign and local visitors; however the general practice in the regional industry is to charge entry levy from the residents of the country only

E.g. Singapore casinos (Marina Bay Sands and Resort World Sentosa) charges an entry levy of S$100 for all Singapore citizens and permanent residents seeking admission to casinos


  • GoSL collected Rs.592mn from Betting and Gamin Levy in 2013
  • The proposal is expected to impact John Keells Holdings (JKH) – JKH’s Integrated Resort will be operational in FY18 with entertainment facilities. However, it is premature to comment on the earnings impact in detail, as JKH is yet to disclose its casino operating and ownership arrangement


Sri Lanka currently has five small scale standalone casinos in Colombo
GoSL projects $2.8 b in tourism earnings 2016E
Impact Analysis

  • Reduction of corporate electricity tariff, VAT to have a positive impact; Tourism companies pay approximately 6-8% of net revenue as energy costs
  • Higher staff cost (approximately 12-14% of net revenue) consequent to the increased employer’s minimum contribution on EPF nImproved infrastructure development to ease accessibility within the country
  • GoSL projects 2.5mn tourist arrivals for 2016E, resulting in forecast tourism earnings of $2.8 b


Tax concessions for export industry

  • Grant frontloaded depreciation allowance for export industry fixed asset acquisitions over $2mn
  • Dividend payments will be exempted from taxes for a period of five years from the commencement of commercial operations
  • Reduce import taxes of packaging material required for exports w.e.f 01 Apr 2014
  • High level of Cess on primary commodity exports and is expected implement with effect immediately
  • A pension scheme is proposed for the employees in the apparel industry from 2015


Impact analysis

  • Tax concessions to benefit export oriented businesses
  • No near term impact from the pension scheme as the finalised regulations on pension scheme is yet to be introduced
  • Listed entities impacted are Textured Jersey Lanka (TJL) and Hayleys MGT Knitting Mills (MGT)



Large private milk collectors were anyway paying above the minimum farm gate price for fresh milk

  • Raise the guaranteed liquid milk price from Rs.50 to Rs.60 per litre
  • Reduce the price of locally produced milk powder by Rs.100 per kg
  • Reduce the price of yoghurt by Rs.3 per yoghurt
  • Cess of Rs.150 per kg on imported milk powder and the Cess on imported butter, yoghurt and dairy products to be maintained
  • Pressure on margins for select dairy producers sourcing local fresh milk e.g. Cargills (Ceylon) (CARG), Lanka Milk Foods (LMF), Lucky Lanka Milk Processing Co. (LLMP), Renuka Agri Foods (RAL) and Nestle Lanka (NEST), though partly cushioned by fall in key global food import prices
  • The reduction in product prices may possibly encourage a switch to local milk powder and liquid milk, though Fonterra Brands Lanka (Pvt) Ltd dominates the milk powder segment (only imports). Only NEST, state owned Milk Industries of Lanka Company (MILCO) and unlisted Pelwatte Dairy locally produce milk powder. The implementation is yet unclear as locally produced milk powder does not fall under the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA). The impact on NEST is not expected to be material as the profit contribution from the low margin segment is not significant
  • Yoghurt is currently not a price controlled item; MILCO (Highland) can however reduce prices to encourage competition to follow suit


Impact analysis
Incentives to boost local rubber industry
Emphasis on improving local sugar production

  • Increase Cess on all raw rubber imports by 33%. Guaranteed price of Rs.300.0 per kg for rubber suppliers w.e.f 01 Nov 2014
  • Extend concessionary tax rate of 12% to the local sugar industry
  • Allocate Rs.5 b to modernise select sugar manufacturing plants and increase the farm gate price of sugar cane to Rs.4,500 per MT
  • Increase subsidies for tea small holders’ and coconut replanting
  • Continue the fertiliser subsidy of Rs.350.5 per kg for paddy cultivation. Increase guaranteed paddy price to Rs.34-40 per kg

Agriculture sector subsidies to increase government expenditure
Impact analysis

  • Increased price of imported rubber to improve demand for locally produced rubber, amid glut in global rubber trade
  • Guaranteed price to support local rubber producers (current auction price of top graded rubber stands at ~Rs.275 per kg)
  • Companies with exposure to rubber to be (modestly) positively effected; Eg. Kegalle Plantations (KGAL), Kelani Valley Plantations (KVAL), Kotagala Plantations (KOTA), Agalawatte Plantations (AGAL), Namunukula Plantations (NAMU), Horana Plantations (HOPL)
  • Inadequate replantation has been a long term impediment in plantation sector to improve harvest and quality of plantations. Increased subsidies to improve plantation volumes
  • High subsidies provided for agriculture sector, accounting for ~30% of country’s total employment to result in increased government expenditure



The GoSL announced that they would achieve a fiscal deficit of 5.0% of GDP over the previous target of 5.2% of GDP (i.e Rs.500 b), in 2014E (vs. 5.9% in 2013), despite the Jan-Apr 2014 annualised fiscal deficit estimate of 14.0% of GDP, largely attributable to aggressive policies undertaken in 2H2014E to improve revenue, new proposals to increase tax compliance and lower than anticipated capital expenditure
The GoSL has adopted a policy direction in the 2015 Budget to uplift the rural, agriculture, educational, health and export sectors whilst maintaining a largely consistent corporate taxation policy also focusing on recovering tax arrears. The GoSL’s emphasis on protectionism is expected to lead to an increase in domestic production and private sector investment, though the high indirect tax component within total tax income could possibly lead to income distribution disparities in medium term
The GoSL forecasts the fiscal deficit for 2015E to decline to 4.6% of GDP (i.e Rs.521 b)

  •  Total revenue and grants are budgeted by the GoSL to rise 19% YoY to Rs.1,689 b in 2015E, with indirect consumer taxes expected to be the main contributor, rising 17% YoY to Rs.1,095 b (65% of total revenue)

Tax revenue expected to rise 19% YoY to Rs.1,416 b, over the growth in recent years, whilst Non-Tax revenue is expected to increase 13% YoY

  •  Major revenue raising proposals include Rs.40 b from payment of tax arrears, Rs.14 b from cigarettes and liquor and Rs.6 b from motor vehicles
  • We expect that the GoSL would broadly meet the revenue target given the penalty driven nature of the tax compliance proposals
  • GoSL estimates total expenditure to increase 15% YoY to Rs.2,210 b in 2015E
  • GoSL expects recurrent expenditure to rise by 10% YoY to Rs.1,525 b, whilst Public Investment is expected to rise 26% YoY to Rs.696 b
  • Major recurrent expenditure increases were seen on salaries & wages and subsidies & transfers. Major beneficiaries would be Education, Healthcare and Agricultural sectors
  • Meanwhile public investment is expected to grow 26% YoY in line with GoSL infrastructure development initiatives. However, this may be reduced in case of a more than anticipated increase in recurrent expenditure
  • We forecast that GoSL will slightly overshoot its slated expenditure targets on account of higher salaries & wages and safety nets introduced
  • Consequently, We forecast 2015E fiscal deficit at 4.9% of GDP (i.e Rs.554 b) given that we anticipate the expected increase in revenue via taxes of tobacco and alcohol (w.e.f. Oct 2014) and the proposed refinance facility for payment of tax and EPF arrears would only partly facilitate to bridge the deficit gap amidst higher populist proposals

  • The budget deficit is forecast to be funded 52:48 by local : foreign borrowings in 2015E, resulting in Debt / GDP of 71%. The mix with more foreign borrowings would lower the interest cost with domestic borrowings expected to be at low interest rates amid the soft monetary policy
  • Further, the conversion of GoSL debt of State Owned Entities (SOE) owed to state banks to equity capital is expected to be positive from a fiscal angle as these entities will be free from interest cost in the short term. Although the state banks would be impacted in the short term on lost interest income, the proposal would strengthen the balance sheet position and asset quality of state banks whilst also enabling higher dividend income in the long run
  • The GoSL further expects to achieve budget deficit targets of 3.8% for 2016E and 3.0% in 2017E and public Debt / GDP targets to 65% by 2017E and 60% by 2020E. This would lead to a low interest cost in fiscal account, enabling the GoSL to reduce possible crowding-out and strengthening private sector
  • We expect that the continuation of stable policy decisions would lead to the GoSL achieving medium term development targets and maintaining sustainable GDP growth rates of 7-8%.