September 28, 2013, 3:35 pm
Harry Jayawardena, Chairman
Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka PLC
"Some people want me to die soon,’’ Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka PLC Chairman, Harry Jayawardena, told shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting held on Friday at the BMICH.
The remark was made, partly in banter, after a shareholder complimentary of returns provided by the company to its members, wished him long life.
There were some lively exchanges, sparked by a suggestion that a hamper of six bottles of VSOA be gifted to those shareholders of the company attending its AGM as this is its centenary year.
"I knew you were going to ask for that,’’ Jayawardena told him. Later another shareholder suggested two bottles and the chairman responded, ``you’re asking for two, he’s asking for six. Settle it between yourselves.’’
In the event there was no gifts of bottles of VSOA – only the customary packed of Uva tea from Balangoda Plantations, a DCSL subsidiary. Jayawardena made no promises although he expressed pleasure at the good attendance at the AGM saying it was necessary that owners of listed company shares took an interest in the running of their companies.
Questioned on the present status of Pelwatte Sugar Industries, a DCSL subsidiary ``expropriated’’ according to Jayawardena, he said the matter remains in limbo. Although he had in the company report maintained that they retain legal ownership, no legal challenge to the takeover is contemplated.
"We have lodged our compensation claim in response to the government notice,’’ he said. Given the protracted legal process in the country, there was no point in fighting. It was better to get compensation now rather than wait a possible 25 years for the conclusion of the legal process.
DCSL has claimed the Rs. 600 million they paid for the Pelwatte shares. The rationale for acquiring control of that company was its potable alcohol by-product which DCSL uses in its core business.
It was better to pay producers here for what was needed rather than import it, Jayawardena explained.
He also said that DCSL was investing in modernizing its plant. Some of the equipment was 35 years old and obsolete with no spares available. Saying that these machines were on their ``last legs,’’ he indicated that any breakdown would be expensive.
Referring to loss-making subsidiaries, he said that one problem faced by Texpro, a fabric manufacturer, was the sharp reduction in the number of garment factories in business today. He also complained about the lack of a level playing field that was costing them business.
On Lanka Bell, a DCSL subsidiary in telecommunications, he said it could be turned around overnight if certain things they were not willing to do were resorted to.