Sri Lankan Browns buys multinational tea firm James Finlay

A tea plucking machine in operation at a tea estate in Kericho county.

A tea plucking machine in operation at a tea estate in Kericho. FILE PHOTO | VITALIS KIMUTAI | NMG

Sri Lankan firm Browns Investment Plc has bought an undisclosed stake in multinational tea firm James Finlay Kenya in a deal that will see locals hold a 15 percent ownership through a co-operative.

Finlay, with farms in Kericho and Bomet counties, will also retain the Saosa tea extraction facility, which will be used to source and process green leaves from outgrowers.

Finlay Kenya’s managing director, Simeon Hutchinson, said the deal would be completed in the next few months.

“We undertook a rigorous process when identifying a buyer for this unique business, prioritising what was best for James Finlay Kenya and its community,” James Woodrow, Finlays group MD, said.

The multinational has had long-running disputes with local communities, trade unions and county governments over mechanisation of its tea estates, which resulted in massive layoffs of pluckers.

“As part of the sales 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,” the firm said.

Mr Hutchinson said talks are ongoing with the unnamed co-operative.

He said the sales deal would not affect the terms of current employees.

Browns is part of the LOLC Holdings conglomerate, which acquired Finlays tea estates in Sri Lanka two years ago.

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