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Lascelles sale 'not on the agenda'

Published:Friday | March 5, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Shareholders of
Lascelles deMercado and Company were assured by Trinidad-appointed Chairman Dr Shafeek Sultan-Khan Thursday that there was no threat of the company's shares being sold off, a year into the collapse of parent company CL Financial Group and its flagship company CLICO.

"We can assure you that we have not met with anyone or have taken any decision that will adversely affect the operation of the company," he said at Lascelles' 95th annual general meeting (AGM) in Kingston.

Instead, Sultan-Khan, who is also chairman of CL Financial, which owns 87 per cent of Lascelles and commands 92 per cent voting rights, said that there are ongoing discussions with the management of the Jamaican spirits conglomerate to ensure its stability and continued capacity to deliver shareholder value.

"At present, we are holding discussions, and we as the board of directors will be working out a collaborative vision going forward," said the chairman.

"In our discussion with the chief executive officer, who is responsible for the operation of the company, we have given him the assurance - and we can give you this assurance - that from a corporate governance standpoint, we will ensure that in these discussion with CLICO ... that will be of benefit to any one party or the majority shareholders. All our actions will take into consideration the rights of all shareholders."

Sultan-Khan also told shareholders the board was pleased with Lascelles' management. The Jamaican company is run by Group Managing Director William McConnell.

Businesses up for sale

Several CL Financial businesses have been put up for sale under the rescue operation mounted by Trinidad, but Sultan-Khan sought to assure shareholders that the same would not befall Lascelles, whose takeover was triggered by interest in its two-century-old subsidiary J. Way and Nephew Limited.

"I don't think there was any question of the government taking over the company. On the contrary, the intention of the government going into this transaction was to safeguard and protect the interest of policy-holders and the government has absolutely no interest in taking over Lascelles. That is certainly not on the agenda," Khan told the
Financial Gleaner
at the close of the AGM.

Lascelles remains a highly profitable company, reporting net income of $2.6 billion at year end September 2009. This result, however, marked a fallback to its 2006 profit position, and was half a billion dollars off its peak profit of $3 billion reported in September 2008.

"We will continue to emphasise the need to build up export trade and further grow our brand equity, all in furtherance of growing shareholders value," said McConnell of the periods ahead.

Lascelles board of directors

Dr Shafeek Sultan-Khan,

William McConnell, managing

Anthony Bell

Alison Lewis

Wayne Yip Choy

Fraser Thornton

Stephen Castagne

Jason Abrahams

Richard Powell

Michael Fraser

David Henriques

Jane George,
(company secretary)