A Journey Through Time: The Enduring Legacy of Carson Cumberbatch PLC

Over 120 years ago, two visionary entrepreneurs, R.B. Carson and H. Cumberbatch, sowed the seeds of a remarkable journey in colonial Ceylon, then a vibrant hub of trade.

R.B. Carson, a man of ambition, arrived on the scene in Ceylon by opening his first office on Baille Street in Colombo to import cotton goods.

In 1861, his enterprise obtained the agency for London Assurance. Over time, Carson and Company thrived, acquiring prestigious agencies for prominent steamship lines like the Bibby Line of Steamers, Nippon Yusen, and the White Star Line.

The company’s crowning achievement came with the listing of its Grand Central Ceylon Rubber Estates on the London Stock Exchange. With an authorized capital of 1.5 million sterling pounds, it became the largest rubber concern in Sri Lanka at the time.

Meanwhile, H. Cumberbatch, with a passion for coffee planting, joined Sabonadiere and Company, a leading estate agency dealing with the produce of numerous plantations. However, the decline in the coffee industry during the 1880s forced Cumberbatch to adapt. He resurrected the company under the name Cumberbatch & Company, which later flourished as a leading estate agency house.

In 1947, recognizing shared values and a future filled with promise, Carson and Company Limited and Cumberbatch & Company merged to form Carson Cumberbatch PLC (CCCL). This marked the beginning of a legacy that continues to inspire.

The newly formed entity, driven by a spirit of innovation, embarked on a strategic shift in 1969. Recognizing the potential of the oil palm industry, CCCL transitioned from rubber plantations to cultivating oil palm in Malaysia. Around the same time, Kanapathy Selvanathan and his sons, Manoharan and Hariharan Selvanathan, joined the business and, with their strategic foresight, invested in CCCL.

The 1970s witnessed the company’s diversification into various sectors, including hotels, real estate, and investments. CCCL further established its presence by constructing its own corporate headquarters in Colombo.

A new chapter of growth unfolded in 1988 when Sri Krishna Corporation Limited, a leading manufacturing and exporting house in Sri Lanka owned by the Selvanathan Family, acquired a controlling interest in CCCL.

In subsequent years, Carson Cumberbatch & Co. Ltd (CCCL) actively expanded its footprint. This included joint ventures in fund management, securing the management contract for Elpitiya Plantations, and the landmark acquisition of Lion Brewery in 1993. Founded in 1849 by Sir Samuel Baker, Lion Brewery holds a distinguished heritage as Sri Lanka’s first domestic brewery. Established to cater to the British colonial tea plantations in the cool, mountainous region of Nuwara Eliya, Lion has a rich history. The Carlsberg Group later entered into a strategic alliance with Lion Brewery, acquiring a 25% stake in the company.

Recognizing the potential for growth beyond borders, CCCL expanded its oil palm plantations into Indonesia in 1996. This move significantly increased its land bank dedicated to oil palm cultivation.

In 1997, the company’s expansion plans came to fruition with the commissioning of a state-of—the-art brewing facility in Biyagama, which effectively doubled its brewing capacity. CCCL further strengthened its diversification by assuming management of three investment holding companies.

While strategically divesting from certain ventures, CCCL continued to invest in core areas. The first mill in Indonesia commenced operations in 2000, processing palm fruits into crude palm oil, and Goodhope Asia Holdings Ltd was established in 2008 to consolidate and regionalize the company’s plantations sector. In 2011, Goodhope acquired processing plants in Malaysia, diversifiying into palm oil refining and specialist fats manufacturing. In 2019, it further solidified its international presence through a joint-venture partnership with Japan’s market leader in oils and fats manufacturing, J-Oil Mills.

 

Showcasing brewing excellence, today, Lion Brewery offers a diverse beverage portfolio featuring award-winning mild to strong beers. Strategic partnerships with industry leaders like Diageo, AB InBev, and Brown-Forman extend its reach for premium beverage import and distribution. Its export business has a global reach, spanning over 20 countries with a dominant market share in Maldives.

CCCL’s investment arm, listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, manages a diversified portfolio exceeding USD 75 million, catering to a variety of investors across asset classes. Its international expansion includes a venture in Mauritius, marking its entry into the realm of international investment management.

Empowering the World, Inspiring the Future

Carson Cumberbatch PLC stands tall today, a testament to our unwavering spirit, visionary leadership, and commitment to excellence. We have transformed into a thriving Sri Lankan conglomerate with a global mindset, leaving a lasting impact on the industries, markets, and communities we touch.

As we embark on the next chapter, guided by the wisdom of our rich heritage, we remain rooted in our core values and driven by an insatiable pursuit of growth. We are committed to continuing the legacy of inspiration that has defined our journey for over a century.