Business Times

Mercantile firm J.L. Morison up for grabs?

Four bidders including businessman Dhammika Perera
By Duruthu Edirimuni Chandrasekera

After his foray into Delmege last month, businessman, Dhammika Perera is among four groups who are eyeing J. L. Morison Son & Jones (Ceylon) PLC which is engaged in importing and distributing finished pharmaceuticals, toiletries, agro chemicals, medical aid, and other consumer products.

However, his bid has not been upto the major shareholders’ interest, who according to stockmarket sources want Rs 5,500 per share. A listed company in the Colombo Stock Exchange, Morison, among the oldest companies in Sri Lanka at over 100 years old, saw its last traded price at Rs 4,192 on Friday being among a select, few high-priced, ill-liquid stocks in the market.

When the Business Times contacted R. Abeywira, Chairman and 40% shareholder of J.L. Morrison who has been associated with the company for the past 60 years, he said that the company isn't for sale, but that if they get a decent offer they will sell. “If anyone is interested in offering a price which excites us, then we will sell,” he said, adding that they are yet to receive such an offer. He added that brokers are approaching the company and that the management hasn't been pursuing a sell out.

According to informed sources, Mr. Perera’s bid was in the Rs 3, 800 range while Lankem Ceylon’s bid had been in the Rs 4, 250 range. “They met an Indian party on Friday as well,” a stockmarket source told the Business Times. A fourth party is also in the running but the identity of the firm was not immediately known.

The source said that the company is currently exploring the possibility of exporting company-owned brands and products to Pakistan and Bangladesh through principal and agent relationship. Also setting up a laboratory to develop a minimum of three new pharmaceutical molecules per year is on the cards. An idea to construct another building to expand the production of antibiotics and ointments, while also entering the Middle East and African markets under a generic name is in their plans. The source also said that identifying and developing branded pharmaceuticals for the existing generic range and promote it through doctors is also in their long term plans.

Other sources at the company say J.L. Morison has the know-how, experience and the ability to contract and manufacture pharmaceuticals and cosmetic products for both local and foreign principals under license. “Also we’re planning to develop at least two new products a year under the Morison brand," one company source said.

J.L. Morrison also offers milk foods, biscuits, household insecticides, shoe care, hair care products, and diagnostics reagent and equipments. In addition, the company, through its subsidiaries, engages in manufacturing and trading pharmaceuticals, toilery, and cosmetic products; and the promotional and wharf clearing activities, as well as provides goods clearing services.

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