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Finlays sells Kenya tea estates business to Sri Lankan conglomerate

Finlays has announced the completion of the sale of its Kenyan tea estates business, James Finlay Kenya, to Sri Lankan conglomerate, Browns Investments PLC.

James Finlay Kenya, which will become known as ‘Browns Plantations Kenya’ in due course, is Brown’s first investment in the Kenyan tea industry. In December 2021, Browns acquired Finlays’ Sri Lankan tea estates business.

As part of the sale agreement, Browns and Finlays have mutually agreed to acknowledge the long-standing support of the local community by offering 15 per cent of shares in James Finlay Kenya for public sale through the Kipsigis Highlands Multipurpose Cooperative Society.

James Finlay Kenya is a leading grower, manufacturer, and supplier of Kenyan tea. It covers a total self-contained area of 10,300 hectares, including 5,200 hectares of tea fields over nine tea estates. The sale includes all parts of James Finlay Kenya Ltd except the Saosa tea extraction facility which will remain under Finlays’ ownership and will become known as ‘Finlays Extracts, Kenya’.

Headquartered in Colombo, Browns operates 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.

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 Kenyan tea sourcing and packing operation James Finlay Mombasa. Saosa manufacturers a range of tea extracts and aromas.

Scandal

James Finlay Kenya has refuted claims it is exiting the Kenyan market/ rebranding to avoid scrutiny over allegations of sexual abuse and poor working conditions at its Kenyan farms.

In February 2023, a joint investigation by BBC Africa Eye and Panorama revealed that more than 70 women had been pressured to have sex by local bosses of Kenyan tea farms owned by James Finlay Kenya and Unilever.

This led to beverage firm Starbucks, ceasing the purchase of tea from James Finlay Kenya.

The company is also embroiled in disputes with local tea pickers over its use of mechanised tea picking machines which have left most of them jobless. Additionally, it is accused of disregarding orders by the National Lands Commission to have the lands it holds resurveyed. 

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