Yaddehige takes control of Richard Pieris, Asia Capital?

By Paneetha Ameresekere
In what was described as a major move by a ‘consortium’ allegedly led by Sri Lankan born scientist and joint deputy chairman of Richard Pieris and Company Ltd (RPCL) Dr. Sena Yaddehige now domiciled in the UK to take control of two of the country’s premier blue-chip companies, RPCL and Asia Capital Ltd., resulted in 16 million shares of Asia apparently being bought by SC Capital Ltd., an investment bank jointly controlled by the Singapore based Chinkara Group and Sampath Bank Ltd., mainly at a seemingly premium price of Rs 19 a share at Monday's trading, sources said.

They described these alleged take-over bids of these two blue-chip companies which began in late March, and which upto date has yielded Rs 1.5 billion in ‘new’ money to the market, as something this country has not seen in recent years. ‘These deals may well result in the change in the managing structure of these two companies,’ they alleged.

Monday's strategic transaction involving Asia Capital’s shares, in effect amounted to around 14.5% of the issued share capital of Asia. 14.8 million of these shares were bought at Rs 19 a share and the balance at prices less than this, with sources alleging that Yaddehige and allies and connected parties now having a 52.5% stake in Asia after Monday's purchase.

Asia Capital is also believed to be already having a 24.7% stake in Richard Pieris. The sellers are believed to have been the Captain family, Sohli and his son Rusi and daughter Leisha, and Ajith de Fonseka, a director of Asia.

While Sohli is still believed to be having a 5% stake in Asia, yesterday’s other sellers are believed to have exited from the company after yesterday’s sale. Prior to yesterday’s transaction, it is believed that SC Capital had around a 4% to 5% stake in Asia, and market rumour has it that SC Capital is fishing to buy another 1% stake in the company at lower prices.

It is alleged that SC Capital is making these purchases apparently on behalf of Yaddehige. It is speculated that Sezeka Fund, a fund registered in the British Virgin Islands, was already having a 20% stake in Asia. And, it is also alleged, that Sezeka is another front of Yaddehige’s.

Taking the lower percentage of 4% which the alleged SC Capital-Yaddehige nexus was believed to be having prior to yesterday’s purchase, this combination, together with yesterday’s buy, is now believed to be having around an 18.5% stake in Asia.

M. M. Udeshi, which according to unconfirmed reports is ‘friendly’’ towards Yaddehige, is speculated to be having around a 11% stake in the company. But, Udeshi in fact is believed to have ‘sided’ with the Pieris family (as opposed to Yaddehige) at RPCL’s recently held annual general meeting, which, however was described as being ‘peaceful,’ without any seemingly acrimonious happenings taking place.

And the Moghul Fund, which is also allegedly considered to be ‘friendly’ towards Yaddehige, a 3% stake in Asia, making the Sezeka, alleged SC Capital-Yaddehige nexus, Udeshi and the Moghul Fund combination to be having a combined 52.5% or a controlling stake in the company. Meanwhile, RPCL has a 25% stake in the company.

The directors of Asia Capital are Allen J. Pathmarajah (Chairman), Dirk B. Flamer-Caldera (Chief Executive Officer), P. Ian Pieris, Rusi S. Captain, Lalit N. de S. Wijeyeratne, Asanga C. Seneviratne, M. M. Udeshi and J. Swaminathan.

Sources described Asia Capital, a diversified company, as being a company with ‘much’ promise, having made a profit in excess of Rs 100 million in the first quarter of this year, with projections that it would make a profit of Rs 220 million by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the other seemingly strategic buy that took place on Monday was the alleged SC Capital-Yaddehige nexus buying nearly a 1% stake in RPCL comprising some 193,800 shares at Rs 140 a share. The seller is believed to have been Paints & General Industries (Exports) Ltd., a company controlled by the Captain family, who are believed to have exited from RCPL with this transaction.

The alleged Yaddehige alliance and connected parties together with Asia Capital are believed to be having at least a 67% stake in RCPL now. The alleged break-up in this connection is as follows: Yaddehige (27.09% in RPCL) Asia Capital (24.7%), Sezeka Fund (9%), Rockport Fund, a fund based in Nuei Island in the South Pacific and believed to be administered by Australia (3%) and Udeshi (3.4%).

RPCL’s directors are Henry A. Pieris (Chairman), P. Ian Pieris (Deputy Chairman/Managing Director), Dr. Sena Yaddehige (Deputy Chairman), Ranil Pieris (Chief Operating Officer), Lalit de S. Wijeyeratne (Finance Director), N. Abeysekera, Nigel Austin, Pravir Samarasinghe, Paul Ratnayeke (said to be a nominee of Yaddehige’s), Dirk Flamer-Caldera. A. S. Jayatilleka and G. C. B. Wijesinghe.