The sale, which will be completed over the coming months, will include all parts of James Finlay Kenya Ltd except the Saosa tea extraction facility.
Saosa will remain under Finlays’ ownership and the business will continue to source leaf tea, timber and other services directly from James Finlay Kenya, meaning an uninterrupted service to existing customers.
According to Finlays, Browns Investments PLC was selected as the approved buyer because of its strong legacy of guiding its tea estates to continued growth, but also its focus on doing so sustainably while supporting its workforce and local communities.
Browns Investments is a highly successful diversified conglomerate and part of the LOLC Holdings PLC group companies, which is one of the largest and most profitable listed corporation in Sri Lanka. Headquartered in Colombo, the company has a proud heritage in operating plantation businesses, owning Maturata Plantations, Hapugastenne Plantations PLC and Udapussellawa Plantations PLC. It is one of the largest tea producing companies in Sri Lanka, consisting of 49 individual estates that stretch across an area of over 30,000 hectares and employs over 10,000 individuals.
Browns First Foray into Kenya
James Finlay Kenya is Browns first investment in the Kenyan tea industry, which it sees as an exciting opportunity for growth. In December 2021, Browns acquired Finlays’ Sri Lankan tea estates business, which has gone from strength to strength, demonstrating Browns’ successful commitment to sustainable growth.
Throughout the sale process, Finlays has at all times prioritized the interests of James Finlay Kenya as a business and its workers, according to the company.
As part of the sale agreement, Browns and Finlays have mutually agreed to acknowledge the long-standing support of the local community by selling 15 percent of shares in James Finlay Kenya to a locally-owned co-operative. Finlays has identified a preferred third party, which it is currently in discussions with.
While the sale process is concluded, operations for James Finlay Kenya will be business as usual, and a full plan is under development to ensure a smooth transition with no customer disruption.
On completion of the sale, Browns intends to continue to run the business as it has been operated until now, as a leading global supplier of Kenyan tea, under a new name. There will be no change in the employment arrangements for current employees of James Finlay Kenya.
Guiding James Finlay Kenya Towards Long-Term Sustainable Growth
Finlays has a long heritage in owning tea estates, however after a strategic review in 2022, it decided that a new strategic investor in James Finlay Kenya would continue to guide this unique business towards long-term sustainable growth for the benefit of the whole community and the Kenyan economy at large.
Leaf tea will continue to be a critical part of Finlays’ portfolio, in which it has a strong global presence across the UK, Sri Lanka, Dubai, Kenya, Argentina, the United States and China. As a business, Finlays has also decided to place greater emphasis on growing its tea and coffee extracts business which it sees as offering particularly exciting growth opportunities for its global customers.
Finlays has a long history in Kenya, and is continuing to invest in the country through its continued ownership of the Saosa tea extracts facility, and its tea sourcing and packing operations in Mombasa.
Kamantha Amarasekera, director of Browns Investments PLC, noted, “We’re proud to be moving a business with such a proud heritage into a new phase of sustainable growth. James Finlay Kenya is an incredible business powered by an incredible community and it has an exciting future. We warmly welcome all members of the James Finlay Kenya team into the Browns family.”
James Woodrow, group managing director of Finlays, said, “We undertook a rigorous process when identifying a buyer for this unique business, prioritizing what was best for James Finlay Kenya and its community. Having seen first-hand Browns’ unwavering focus on supporting local people and their communities to thrive when acquiring Finlays Sri Lankan tea estates business in 2021, we have no doubt that Browns is the ideal strategic investor for James Finlay Kenya. We will continue to have a very close relationship with James Finlay Kenya and look forward to continuing to source tea from it and championing Kenyan tea and botanicals across the world.”
Is the sale happening because of the recent BBC documentary on Kenyan tea estate workers? And will Finalys continue to deliver an action plan to remediate the issues highlighted in the documentary?
According to a statement from Finalys:
“In 2022, Finlays made a strategic decision to start seeking new ownership for JFK [James Finlay Kenya]. The BBC documentary, which was broadcasted on 20th February 2023, had no impact on this decision.
“The testimonies from workers across Kenyan tea estates shared in the documentary were deeply upsetting – there is simply no place for harassment, abuse or misconduct of any kind at JFK.
“Finlays has focused on taking immediate action to protect all at JFK since the documentary aired, and has also commissioned an independent investigation to assess where approaches to safeguarding JFK employees need to be improved.
“The outcome of this investigation is expected in August, and Browns is contractually committed to implementing any recommendations coming out of that process. This commitment was a key consideration for Finlays during the final stages of the agreement to sell JFK.
“After the sale completes, Finlays will become one of JFK’s largest customers, and we will be represented on the Steering Group, which is overseeing the implementation of Partner Africa’s recommended action plan.”
To learn more about Finlays, visit Finlays.net.
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