Minoli Wickramasinghe, the Chief Executive Officer/ Managing Director of Capital TRUST Properties (Pvt) Ltd, is a woman on a mission who is ready for what the road ahead holds. With a close focus on the Real Estate industry, Minoli is keen on providing Sri Lankans with high-quality housing that they deserve. This mission is an easy challenge for her as she was exposed to the Real Estate industry and stockbroking at a very young age.
Minoli began her career journey at DFCC Bank and then moved to Maersk Lanka. At Maersk she was a key employee handling the entire finance function for Maersk’s logistics company, coordinating and reporting to its head office in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Thereafter, she was appointed as Head of Corporate Training/ Director of Skills Lanka Limited, the only public limited liability company focused on corporate training and education. There she was instrumental in securing training for employees of a number of large companies and organisations in Sri Lanka. She is also a Director of Capital TRUST Credit (Pvt) Ltd and Capital TRUST Corporate Solutions (Pvt) Ltd.
Capital TRUST Properties, a subsidiary of Capital TRUST Holdings Ltd, is a leading Real Estate company in Sri Lanka. The primary activities of the organisation are Property Investments, Property Brokering, Property Management Services and Property Development, and it has executed many strategic deals in Sri Lanka with the support of the government authorities and 65 Stock Brokers and 15 Marketing Executives of Capital TRUST Securities.
“I saw a huge potential in the Real Estate sector for Sri Lanka. We were the only organised company to start such an operation and in a short span, the company itself bought many properties in Colombo and the suburbs. This was the right time to have got into properties as the war had kept the property prices unrealistically low. The company now holds a large portfolio of properties.
“The company now holds a large portfolio of properties and has expanded into more areas for the group including the new company, Capital TRUST Residencies. Capital Trust Residencies is the developer of super luxury apartments and has won several international awards for its unique competitive edge of constructing some of the best boutique developments in Colombo, all of which we have completed despite very difficult times for the construction industry,” Minoli said.
When questioned about how COVID-19 has affected the Real Estate industry, Minoli’s response was different to others. She stated that the industry had performed better this year in terms of interest and transactions alike, than the effect it had for the past four years due to policy inconsistencies and political instability.
“The move to reduce interest rates was a much-needed initiative to push our economy forward. High interest rates are hugely to blame for what we are today. We operated an inefficient economic system where people depended on only fixed deposits which are not the way forward in any economic sense. Now we see more sophisticated investors wanting to invest either in stocks and bonds etc, and others on traditional real estate. We have more than LKR 7,000Bn in fixed deposits which will eventually come to the economy for reinvestment in more productive assets – mostly in real estate assets, new company formations, stocks etc,” she added.
Real Estate plays an integral role in a country’s economy. Expressing her views regarding the same, Minoli stated, “Real estate contributes to the economy because it makes up a large portion of individual and business wealth across many economic sectors. When real estate prices rise, wealth increases, so individuals and businesses are more likely to borrow and spend. When home prices rise, the effects ripple across the economy.”
It’s evident that Sri Lankan real estate holds much value due to its strategic placement in the global map, and hence, many countries and individuals express interest in purchasing and investing in Sri Lankan land. Explaining further, Minoli stated, “We are not just any country, we are on the crossroads between the three major superpowers. Being part of the ‘One Road One Belt’ initiative makes Sri Lanka an attraction to China, the U.S. and of course India. The fact that there is a trade war between the U.S. also gives us an opportunity as a nation to attract Chinese manufacturing concerns and good business to establish here. I foresee our land prices will never go down as a result. Sri Lanka is also an island with limited buildable land. These reasons alone make real estate the safest and most lucrative investment in Sri Lanka.
“Since the prime lending rate has come down from 11.8% to 6.5%, home loans can be obtained for less than 9%, so we see an increase in investor confidence as compared to the past four years. There is a genuine need for people looking for investment opportunities.”
Speaking on the future of the Sri Lankan Real Estate industry, the CEO started out by recalling the consequences of the war on property value. “Sri Lanka had a war for over 30 years. Real estate was not an asset people looked favourably at as an investment class, as it did not appreciate much for 30 years. The prices were so depressed that by 2012 there was an exponential increase in land value, even with that escalation the prices were not overvalued as that increase was itself overwhelming for Sri Lankans. However, given prices in cities such as Shanghai, which is valued above LKR 60Mn per perch in Sri Lankan terms, or given prices in London, we still have a long way to go in terms of a property bubble!”
According to Minoli, there is a lot of scope for real estate development in Sri Lanka as urbanisation has just begun and our infrastructure, highways for instance, were only built recently. Taking the African countries into consideration, they had their highways constructed decades ago, she pointed out, adding that Sri Lanka still requires road widening and flyovers and most rural villages have no proper road access and hence remain unconnected to proper transport systems.
“Sri Lanka is a small island where buildable land is scarce and hence if the roadways are developed and proper public transport is put in place, land prices out of Colombo which still remain cheap will definitely rise steeply.
“However, we will have a challenge ahead as the second wave of COVID-19 has struck us in an unexpected way. The government should extend support to the Real Estate industry that plays a vital role in the economy.”