Financial Times

CIC looks for new name

With agri-business overtaking paints and fertilizer
By Bandula Sirimanna

Chemical Industries Colombo Plc (CIC) which has seen a major shift in its business model by moving rapidly into the business of agriculture and its production, is planning a name change to reflect the changing character of the Colombo firm famous for its Dulux Paints and fertilizer.

CIC Chairman B.R.L Fernando said the company is in the midst of a survey to find a suitable name for CIC – essentially to replace the word ‘Chemical’ with another word starting with ‘C’ while leaving the brand name ‘CIC’ intact. He told the Sunday Times FT that when they market their agri-products under the brand of Chemical industries (Colombo) PLC, some buyers are reluctant to buy their products because the first impression is that this has something to do with chemicals.

Citing an example he said that when they export high quality rice to the Middle East, they found out that buyers were little hesitant as the company name is connected to chemicals. Mr Fernando said that chemicals and paints business is not so profitable in Sri Lanka as they have to compete with hundreds of small companies, providing another rationale in moving into other areas and effecting a name change without changing the acronym.

In the last financial year, revenue from agri-businesses exceeded revenue from each of the other businesses while Group revenue including the sales of residual chemicals amounted to Rs. 15.68 billion. Net profit after tax and minority interest, was at Rs. 408 million, he said.

He said that CIC is now an agriculture company with a comprehensive research and development unit. He noted that it has links with rural communities through their farms in villages which are being operated to transfer technology adding value to rural agriculture sector harnessing high agri crop yield.
CIC has a long and eventful history in Sri Lanka since its inception in the late 1940's. Formerly known as ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries) Ltd, a subsidiary of Imperial Chemicals Industries Plc. UK, its name was changed to CIC in 1964 when the majority of its shares were taken over by Sri Lankans.

Today it is involved in agri-business, fertilizers, seeds, agro chemicals, paints and surface coatings, adhesives, industrial raw materials and consumer products. Referring to the company’s present and future ventures which is expected to add value to the peasant agricultural sector, the CIC chairman said that they have embarked on animal feed and poultry business along with cultivation of rice, vegetables, fruits and production of added value dairy products.

The Pelwehera (near Dambulla) research plots have yielded long grain red rice and better yielding traditional rice varieties which are appealing to discerning consumers. “We have successfully developed an export market for the long grain red rice with the anticipated output of around 500 tons next year,” he said. CIC has launched a joint venture with Mahaweli Livestock Dairies (Private) Ltd targeting the collection of 20,000 litres of milk a day for the production of added value products addressing the country’s low per capita milk consumption.

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