UK based investor buys 37% stake in George Steuart

British interests in Sri Lanka’s oldest business establishment, George Steuart & Co Ltd founded in 1835 and located at ‘Steuart House in Janadhipathi Mawatha were revived when a UK based investor acquired a 37% stake in George Steuart & Co Ltd on Monday.

Dubsy P. Kanagaratnam representing the DPK Group of ‘DPK House in London, bought over the holding of the Merchant Bank of Sri Lanka (MBSL) in the Company, following a decision by that Bank to divest all of its non banking investments.

The DPK Group is a widely diversified financial institution offering management, advisory and financial services to companies and corporate clients both in the UK and overseas. The Group arranges finance for investment in residential and commercial properties and in business enterprises

As Chairman of the DPK Group, Kanagaratnam said that his Company was delighted to make this investment ‘in such a long standing and highly reputed organisation,’ as his Board saw the long term potential for considerable growth in an already diversified and stable portfolio

"There are additional overseas investments that we intend to bring into Sri Lanka and see George Steuarts as an excellent name to group these with, and to help build the Company into a conglomerate to be on par with the ‘blue chips’ in Sri Lanka.

The two nominees of the investor who will serve on the Board of George Steuart are Gamani Abeysuriya, (the current Marketing Director of Singer who will shortly relinquish that position to take his appointment as an Executive Director with George Steuarts with effect from March 1) and Roy Dacosta, a well known property developer in West London.

George Steuarts Group Chairman S. Skandakumar said that his Board was pleased to welcome the new investor and observed that it also provided an opportunity to reestablish relationships with British interests, one which dominated the Company’s history in its first 140 years.

"It took us time to overcome the consequences of the nationalisation of plantations in 1975, since their management was the Company’s only line of business at that time. The Group has since, successfully diversified into new areas of businesses.

Despite the devastation caused by the Central Bank bomb attack in Janauary 1996, we have consolidated the Group’s activities due largely to the efforts of loyal and dedicated teams of Management and Staff in our various operations."

However, the Chairman added that the continued closure of Janadhipathi Mawatha for normal vehicular traffic was having its impact on business and expressed the hope that Sri Lanka’s prime business centre would return to normalcy in the near future.

"We are confident that along with our new investor, we shall be able to achieve the objectives that have been mutually identified and agreed upon," he added. Skandakumar also placed on record his appreciation of the contribution made by MBSL during the period they held a stake in the Company.

The Group’s current activities comprise ticketing, travel, pharmaceuticals, tea, manufacture of telephones and support services for installations, motor spares, freight fowarding, airline representation, overseas employment, insurance and education.

The reconstituted board of George Steuart will comprise S Skandakumar (Chairman), J.M.Wimalagooneratne (Managing Director), R. Wickramasinghe (Finance Director), G.E.S Drckze, Gamani Abey suriya and Roy Dacosta.