Fiji Business Briefs: Chequing-out, Pacific Green growth, Movers and Shakers

Nanuku Resort General Manager, Tomasi Turukawa

Bank cheques phase out

While the phasing out of cheques by Fiji’s banks is inevitable, indications from the Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF) are that there is still flexibility around the timeline.

RBF Governor Arrif Ali says the Bank will “closely monitor the readiness of commercial banks on the proposed dates for the discontinuation of cheques and will make an assessment within the next few months if the current proposed dates are appropriate.”

Ali says laws will also need to be made to accommodate the changes, and that this “could take some time.”  

He continues: “The RBF and the ABIF are well aware of the impact of the reform action of phasing out cheques on particular sectors such as the MSMEs, and the senior banking public who have only known cheques as their alternative form of payment apart from cash, and would wish to reiterate that all necessary effort will be made to ensure that these users are provided with the relevant information regarding the phase out of cheques together with available onboarding plans to other forms of payment, so that they remain confident in being part of the payments system in Fiji.”

Pacific Green reports 2023 profit

Coconut furniture manufacturer Pacific Green has reported a turnover of FJ$4.388 million for last year, despite challenges including Value Added Tax (VAT) increases and labour market shortages. It says financial performance was influenced by shifts in the digital marketing landscape and economic adjustments worldwide.

Company chair, Ravin Chandra reports: “Despite these challenges, our gross profit margin remained strong at 45%. This performance is especially commendable considering the upward pressure on costs due to several key factors. Notably, the increase in VAT significantly impacted the cost of our raw materials, directly affecting our cost structures and, consequently, reducing our profit margins. Additionally, a persistent labour shortage has led to an increase in labour costs, further squeezing our margins. We have also faced rising global prices for materials and freight, adding to the upward cost pressures.

“Despite these obstacles, our net profit stood at $0.400 million, a testament to our team’s resilience, hard work, and strategic planning.”

The company has temporarily withheld dividends.

Boost for port infrastructure

The Fiji and Australian governments have agreed to work together to improve Fiji’s ports infrastructure and services.  Australia will provide grant financing to the Ministry of Public Enterprises for technical assistance and help in development of the shipbuilding sector, a priority of the Fiji government.

Movers and Shakers

Chartered accountant Susie Waqanibaravi has joined the Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF) Board, succeeding Mukhtar Ali. Waqanibaravi has over a decade of leadership experience and a background in finance and accounting.

Nanuku Resort Fiji has appointed its former director of rooms Tomasi Turukawa as its new general manager.

The Fiji Sugar Corporation Limited (FSC) has reappointed Bhan Pratap Singh as CEO for another three-year term. Singh has two decades of experience in FSC and a background in manufacturing and processing operations.

Dorin Reddy has been appointed as Reservations Manager for the Sheraton and Westin Resorts Denarau Complex, leveraging over 20 years of experience in hospitality and management.

Castaway Island Fiji’s General Manager Steven Andrews has been recognised as GM of the Year at the recent Outrigger Way Awards in Hawaii. It comes as Castaway achieved its best financial year in 2023. “This recognition is not mine alone but belongs to every member of the Castaway vuvale,” Andrews said.

Pleass Global reveals dividend reinvestment plan

Following robust sales growth, water bottlers Pleass Global has declared an increased dividend for 2023 of FJ$0.06 per share, reflecting higher efficiency and profit. Meanwhile, Pleass has revealed its dividend reinvestment plan, offering shareholders the option to reinvest dividends into additional shares at a discounted price. With no brokerage fees, the plan aims to enhance shareholder value and support company growth initiatives. Shareholders can opt-in by returning the election form before April 4.

Fiji Airways reveals sales on flights and holiday packages

Fiji Airways has revealed its largest sale in three years, offering significant discounts on flights and accommodation across Fiji and the Pacific. Partnering with tourism bodies from neighbouring islands, the campaign aims to promote regional travel and boost tourism post-pandemic.

Fiji Water allocates classroom grants

The Fiji Water Foundation has allocated FJ$1.2 million to fund classroom grants benefiting over 4000 students across Fiji. Targeting 250 teachers, the grants aim to enhance educational experiences with resources ranging from technology tools to career readiness equipment. Applications are open until March 31, with recipients announced in April. The initiative is to underscore the foundation’s commitment to community development and education, building on its history of investing over FJ$19.5 million since 2008.

Retail updates

P Meghji Group of Companies has opened a new supermarket under its Fresh Choice brand in Savusavu and plans to open a coffee shop and bakery soon.

Jack’s Restaurant has reopened its renovated ‘Corner Café’ in downtown Nadi. The café, which can be found behind Jack’s Nadi mall, also has a new menu.

Digicel and MH Money Express have signed an MOU that enables MYCash mobile wallet customers to withdraw and make deposits at any MH Money Express outlet around the country.

IMO to open Suva office

The International Maritime Organisation will open a Suva office that will serve countries and territories in the Pacific. Fiji’s Minister for Public Works, Meteorological Services and Transport Ro Filipe Tuisawau said the presence of a regional office would provide an opportunity to address critical issues such as challenges of providing an efficient inter-island shipping services.

The Regional Presence Office will support the maritime needs and priorities of countries in the Pacific region, aligning IMO actions with national and regional development policies, while providing advice on key maritime issues such as training, safety and security, legislation, and marine environment.

5G on the way for Digicel

Digicel is working with Nokia to upgrade its cell tower sites as it prepares for the rollout of 5G.

Digicel Fiji CEO, Farid Mohammed, said: “Nokia’s cutting-edge equipment will enable us to not only sustain but also improve coverage across the country, boosting mobile internet speeds and embracing transformative technologies like 5G.”

He adds that Digicel Fiji’s upgraded cell tower sites meet strict 5G cybersecurity standards, safeguarding critical national infrastructure with resilience and security.