James Finlay sells its Kenya tea business to Sri Lanka firm

By David Kipkorir

Finlays, a leading global supplier of tea, coffee and botanical ingredients and solutions, has reached an agreement to sell its James Finlay Kenya tea estates business to Browns Investments PLC, a firm based in Sri Lanka

In a statement, Finlays said the sale, which will be completed over the coming months and 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”, said the company.

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 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.

James Finlay Kenya is Brown’s 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 always prioritised the interests of James Finlay Kenya as a business and its workers. 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 per cent 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.

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 US 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.

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