Holcim's Fontana walks into a barrage of problems in Sri Lanka

Holcim's Fontana walks into a barrage of problems in Sri Lanka
Published: 16 June 2014

Tagged Under: Sri Lanka Holcim Lanka Ltd 

Bernard Fontana, Holcim CEO, arrived in Sri Lanka to formally open a grinding facility in Galle, but found  Holcim being accused of various charges by the local press. Communications staff at Holcim Lanka had to block attempts by The Sunday Leader and the Irudina to attend a press briefing at the Taj Hotel in Colombo.

Mr Fontana faced anger when the investment of US$22m in Ruhunu Galle was being formally opened on Poson Poya day, the second most holy day for Buddhists after Wesak.

Holcim is being accused by a section of minority shareholders of having lost its way in Sri Lanka. Minority shareholders have let it be known that they have hired a legal team to represent their case in courts. They also pointed out that they will be lobbying all relevant authorities and bodies to look into the alleged malpractices.

A public interest litigator and associates confirmed that they would be “looking at the sale of the stake to Holcim and how it is that they obtained majority control at the initial stage.” In a further development, a legal team familiar with the matter disclosed that ‘there may well be a prima facie case to annul the original transaction as Holcim had paid for the shares outside Sri Lankan territory.’

Local staff at Holcim have also become increasingly unhappy with their terms of employment. They charge that once the Swiss firm took over, the staff strength was reduced from 2500 to 650 against Board of Investment (BOI) regulations. They also complain of the high number of staff employed as contract workers or in temporary basis and not on a permanent basis, thereby affecting other benefits over long term, reports the Sunday Leader.