John Keells Holdings PLC (JKH)

From TobaccoUnmasked


John Keells Holdings PLC (JKH), a group of companies in Sri Lanka, was the largest traded public listed company in the Colombo Stock Exchange in 2017. JKH businesses include hotels, resorts, logistic services, IT services and manufacturing food and beverages. JKH also runs a chain of supermarkets named Keells Super which sells consumables including tobacco and alcohol.[1] Susantha Ratnayake is the current chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of JKH. Appointed in 2006 as the Chairman, he served in the JKH board from 1992.[2]

Image 1: Profile of Susantha Ratnayake published in the JKH website as of 29th December 2017.[2]

Links with the Tobacco industry

During the past two decades, JKH had two chairmen who simultaneously operated as the chair of the Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC).

  • Susantha Ratnayake - the current chairman of JKH, is also the current chairman of CTC. He was a Non-Executive Director of CTC since October 2006 and was appointed as the Chairman in 2013.[3] However, as of 2017, his profile in the JKH website did not mention his 12-year long affiliation or the chairmanship to the CTC (Image 1).[2]
  • Ken Balendra was the first Sri Lankan chairman of JKH (1990-2000).[4] He was the Chairman of CTC from 2003 to 2009 and also served as a Non-Executive Director for 9 years.[5]

JKH also have a mutual non-executive director with CTC since 2014 - Premila Perera

Tobacco Company related activities

JKH interacted with CTC in many instances over the years as shown by the examples below.

Evidence on Joint Business Plans

BAT internal documents on Truth Tobacco Industry Documents Library revealed a note on the Sri Lankan visit by a member of BAT, DS Jones (Image 2). It mentioned a discussion with John Keells to become a 5% shareholder with a seat on the CTC Eagle Board in 1991.[6]

An excerpt from the Letter from David Jones to JCD Manning regarding notes of visit to Sri Lanka on March 1991[6]

Hosting the Sri Lankan Visit of a BAT Director

British American Tobacco (BAT) internal documents revealed a letter by A.C. Johnston, a director of BAT to Ken Balendra, on 21st June 1994 commending the hospitality received at Habarana Lodge, a hotel owned by JKH and the sight-seeing tour provided by the JKH helicopter (Image 3).[7]

Letter written by A.C. Johnston to Ken Balendra on 21 June 1994[7]

Fast Track 15 Internship Program

CTC and JKH heads with Fast Track candidates in 2015[8]

Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC) and JKH collaborated in 2011, to introduce the Internship Program Fast Track 15 (Image 4), targeting the undergraduates “in different business sectors including banking, financial services and transportation”.[8] (Please see Fast Track 15 for more details).

Collaborating to Build a Rest Room for Pilgrims at Girihandu Seya

John keels foundation (the social investment unit of JKH group) and the CTC jointly funded the construction of a rest room at Girihandu Seya temple premises in Thiriyaya.[9] (Please see Rest Room for Pilgrims at Girihandu Seya for more details)

TobaccoUnmasked Resources

Other relevant TobaccoUnmasked entries:

Relevant Links

The local language translations



  1. John Keells Group. Website, 2017, accessed October 2017
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 John Keells Group Website. Board of Directors, 2017, accessed October 2017
  3. Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC. Board of Directors, accessed October 2017
  4. Sunday Times. Ken Balendra Releases Biography, 17 September 2017, accessed October 2017
  5. Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC. Annual Report 2008, 2009, accessed January 2018
  6. 6.0 6.1 DS Jones. Letter from David Jones to JCD Manning regarding notes of visit, British American Tobacco Records, 13 March 1991, accessed October 2017
  7. 7.0 7.1 British-American Tobacco Company Limited, AC Johnston. Letter from AC Johnston to Ken Balendra regarding visit information, British American Tobacco Records, 21 June 1994, accessed October 2017
  8. 8.0 8.1 Daily FT. Fast Track 15 gives impetus to young talented undergraduates, 15 May 2015, accessed October 2017
  9. Asian Tribune. Secretary Defence declares opens Pilgrims Rest at Girihandu Seya, 21 July 2014, accessed November 2017