The outright sale of Lewis Brown & Company Ltd (the owning company of the Delmege Forsyth Group) to influential businessman and Transport Ministry Secretary Dhammika Perera and related parties on Thursday by the Mendis family owners, came as a ‘surprise’ to many including its employees as the group was ‘doing well’ and not on the way to being sold, according to some staff.
“Selling was not on the cards for senior officials in the company,” a official in the company told the Business Times. Brokers said another large diversified group which has been making forays in the share market in the recent times was also offered Lewis Brown & Co, but they weren’t interested.
Delmege is a diversified group of companies engaged in the businesses of imports, exports, retail distribution, travel, freight forwarding, insurance brokering, construction, interior décor, medical and air services.
Vallibel One acquired 51% ownership of the 100 year old group from the Mendis family (Ricky Mendis) while Royal Ceramics bought 20%, Mr. Perera himself accruing 10% and related parties purchasing 19% for Rs 3.1 billion. This is the first time that Mr. Perera has cottoned onto an established conglomerate (in terms of taking 100% control). “This has got him to a different stage and a much higher level,” an analyst said.
Analysts said that Delmege owns valuable land of more than Rs 2 billion in Colombo. "As there is a mad rush to grab 'Central Business District' land in the city which is still at bargain prices this acquisition by Mr. Perera comes as no surprise," an analyst told the Business Times.
The deal came just ahead of an initial public offer of Vallibel One which is opening on June 21 to raise Rs 532 million by selling 21 million shares at Rs 25 a share. It had a private placement early in 2011 also at Rs 25 and raised Rs 4.9 billion. Among the firm's assets are listed Royal Ceramics, LB Finance and a part-stake in Sampath Bank.