Outstation Opportunity

May 15, 2008 (LBO) – Bartleet Finance, part of Sri Lanka's Bartleet group, is considering setting up a branch in northern Jaffna and expanding in rural areas where officials say there is much potential. Managing director Susantha Fernando said the firm faced difficulties this year because of soaring interest rates but believes rates have now stabilised.

The firm's main business is deposit taking, hire purchase, leasing, real estate development, and import-export finance.

Fernando said the Bartleet group's fastest grown business was plantations with tea prices remaining strong, followed by the finance sector, which he heads.

Leasing was the mainstay of the finance business, followed by hire purchase which saw strong growth this year particularly in the transport sector, he said in an interview Wednesday.

"Most of the business is in rural areas especially Embilipitiya and Kalutara (in the south) in areas not adequately served by banks," Fernando said.

Although the firm's lending rates are higher than that of banks, Fernando said they are "not that much higher."

The situation in the north and east, where government forces are fighting Tamil Tiger rebels, was improving, and

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