Ajit Gunawardene bows out of Odel chair
900 for one share split preceded Odel IPO


Odel has posted a group after-tax profit of Rs.140.7 million for the year ended March 31, 2010, up from Rs.32.2 million a year earlier according to the just published annual report of the company which last week made history on the Colombo Stock Exchange with its initial public issue oversubscribed 63.8 times by attracting nearly Rs.16 billion in share application money.

The company’s outgoing Chairman, Mr. Ajit Gunewardene, Deputy Chairman of JKH, will be succeeded by his brother Ruchi. The company’s Founder/CEO Otara Gunewardene is their sister.

"Sri Lanka is on the cusp of a growth momentum that has never been seen before,’’ Ajit Gunewardene said in the company’s annual report. "And I believe so is Odel."

Sketching the history of the company, he said Otara, who had returned from the USA with a degree in biology and a stint in the fashion industry in the late 1980s, did not want to work in the formal private sector as has been the family tradition.

"Instead, in what was the emerging new economic landscape with the thrust on exports, she used her eye for fashion and bought excess garments from the factories to resell to the mushrooming retail stores in Colombo.

"This `boot of the car’ business continued for a couple of years until she felt that Colombo needed a better quality store which she was confident she could offer. And that was the beginning of Odel."

Gunewardene said that Otara, borrowing from their father the Dickman’s Road premises in which the store was opened for business, had tapped virtually all family members for various inputs from finance, interior design, and operations.

The company’s name was coined by their late father (Norman Gunewardene of Aitken Spence) and today "the company had grown beyond casual family inputs to a professionally run operation with the governance structure required to take the company public.’’

"Otara remains the hard charging CEO with the driving force and vision that has made the Odel brand synonymous with fashion and retailing in Sri Lanka," he said.

Otara Gunewardene recalled that Odel’s journey was one of many challenges with a prolonged war and restrictive import duties compelling them to adapt.

She planned to expand Odel’s reach across many more cities in Sri Lanka over the next few months while staying true to the international aura of the brand, she said, also indicating that a new format of stores was under consideration.

Odel had sub-divided each of its shares to 900 ahead of its IPO with the major shareholders being members of the Gunewardene family – Otara (80.8 million shares), Ruchi (1 million shares) and Ajit (40.4 million shares).

Phoenix Ventures with 3 million shares and three members of the De Soysa family,

Anomal (nearly 2.8 million shares), Menik (0.15 million shares) and Amrith (75,000 shares) are the other shareholders listed in the annual report.

Their percentages will be diluted following the IPO involving the issue of 16.7 million new shares priced at Rs.15 per share.

The directors of Odel are: Ms. Otara Del Gunewardene (Executive Director/CEO), Messrs. Ruchi Gunewardene (Non-Executive Director), Paul Topping (Non-Executive Independent Director), Sanjay Kulatunga (Non-Executive Independent Director and Eardley Perera (Non-Executive Independent Director).



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