Bank of Ceylon (BOC)
Bank of Ceylon, commonly known as BOC, is one of the leading state-owned banks in Sri Lanka. It was established in 1939, under the Bank of Ceylon Ordinance No. 53 of 1938, as the Sri Lanka’s first state owned commercial bank. It is licensed as a commercial bank under the Banking Act No. 30 of 1988. The headquarters of BOC, the tallest building in Sri Lanka until 1990’s (Image 1), is situated at No. 01, BOC Square, Bank of Ceylon Mawatha, Colombo 01, Sri Lanka.
As of March 2021, the BOC has grown into the largest banking network in Sri Lanka with more than 645 branches, and it’s group incorporates 10 Subsidiaries and four associate companies listed below. The BOC website identifies itself as “Sri Lanka’s foremost commercial and government bank”.
- BOC Subsidiaries
- Property Development PLC
- Merchant Bank of Sri Lanka & Finance PLC
- BOC Management & Support Services (Private) Limited
- BOC Property Development & Management (Private) Limited
- BOC Travels (Private) Limited
- Hotels Colombo (1963) Limited
- Ceybank Holiday Homes (Private) Limited
- MBSL Insurance Company Limited
- Koladeniya Hydropower (Private) Limited
- BoC UK – Bank of Ceylon (UK) Limited
- BOC Associates
- Ceybank Asset Management Limited
- Southern Development Financial Company Limited
- Lanka Securities (Private) Limited
- Transnational Lanka Records Solutions (Private) Limited
Current chairman of the BOC (by March 2021) is Mr. Kanchana Ratwatte, who was appointed on 2nd January 2020.
The board of directors as of January 2021 were, as stated in their website, Mr R M P Rathnayake (Ex-Officio Director), Mr. G. Harsha Wijayawardhana (Non-Executive Director), Mr. Anura Christopher Manilka Fernando (Non-Executive Director) and Major General (Rtd) G. A. Chandrasiri (Non-Executive Director).
Links with the Tobacco industry
Invested in Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC)
Bank of Ceylon is listed as one of the top 20 shareholders of the Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC), which holds the monopoly of cigarette manufacturing and sales in Sri Lanka. CTC is a subsidiary of British American Tobacco (BAT), which owned 84.13% of the shares of CTC in 2019.
According to the 2020 Annual Report of CTC, Bank of Ceylon holds 0.08% of the total shares of CTC, which is 143,175 in number, under the name ‘Bank of Ceylon No 1 Account’. It is the 15h largest shareholder of CTC, and also one of the only two local investors in the list (Image 2).
In December 2020, Bank of Ceylon was accused of approving a loan to a private company named D S Gunasekara Ltd to stockpile cigarettes prior to a potential tax increase and a price hike. The loan worth of Rs. 3,150 million was granted through the BOC Katuwana branch in September 2020 following approval by the BOC headquarters amidst the objections of two members of the Board of Directors (Image 3). Please visit our page on Bank of Ceylon and the Cigarette Stockpiling Issue for more details.
As BoC is a state-owned bank, any liaison with the tobacco industry is a violation of FCTC Article 5.3. Furthermore, with regards to this particular incident, BOC has allegedly helped the industry to violate FCTC Article 6; and has, if proven true, not represented the best interests of the government or the public.
- D S Gunasekara Ltd
- Bank of Ceylon and the Cigarette Stockpiling Issue
- Tobacco Industry Tactics to Evade Tax
The local language translations
- Bank Of Ceylon. About Us, Undated, Accessed January 2021
- Bank Of Ceylon. Board of Directors, Undated, Accessed January 2021
- Sunday Observer.lk Brand Finance picks Bank of Ceylon as the No.1 brand, website, 21st May, 2017, Accessed January 2021
- Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC. Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC Annual Report 2020, 2021, Accessed May 2021
- TobaccoUnmasked Archives BOC transaction with D.S.Gunasekara Pvt. Ltd for Stockpiling Cigarettes, website, January 2021, Accessed January 2021