Financial Times

JKH ‘mum’ on outcome of board meeting

The much-awaited board meeting of John Keells Holdings (JKH), under the microscope by the Supreme Court over its role in the 2002 privatisation of Lanka Marine Services, was held on Wednesday but no statement was issued, disappointing shareholders and the investing community.

Except for comments made to The Sunday Times FT by JKH Deputy Chairman Ajit Gunawardene during the week, the company is yet to inform its shareholders and stakeholders on the outcome of the meeting and the decision of the directors. “The board resolved to meet full compliance with the judgement,” Mr Gunewardene said.

“It was a ‘normal’ board meeting. The board was briefed by the executive directors of all the facts of the judgement and the directors resolved that John Keells will continue to serve its customers and stakeholders to the highest standards as maintained by the company,” he said. Other company officials said a statement on the meeting was unlikely to be made.

The Supreme Court declared that the privatisation of LMSL was illegal, unlawful and arbitrary. Directors of JKH were asked to pay Rs 250,000 as costs. Court also ordered that the land on which the bunkering facilities lies should be returned to the state and that all taxes – since LMSL got tax-free status – should be paid from the date of privatization onwards.

All 10 directors attended the meeting. The two biggest, single largest shareholders at JKH are Sohli Captain and Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri Lankan investor based in the US. Mr Captain directly controls 12.79 percent and another 7.94 percent through connected parties making it a total of 20.73 percent while Mr Rajaratnamdirectly owns 9.15 percent and through other parties another 5.4 percent working out to a 14.5 percent. A variety of foreign funds owns a total of 16.76 percent. Former JKH Chairman Ken Balendra has 1.28 percent slice in the company. The JKH stock has been hovering in the Rs 100 per share region and attracted large trades particularly after the board meeting.

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