John Keells Holdings PLC and its subsidiaries last week sold 413, 408 ordinary shares of Keells Food Products PLC at Rs.160 a share to increase the public holding in the company as required by the capital market regulator as a part of its minimum public free float rules, a stock exchange filing said.
On December 20, 2013 the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a directive to all listed public companies asking them to increase the minimum public holding to 10 percent and 20 percent for Diri Savi Board and Main Board listed entities, respectively, by December 31, 2016 as a continuous
Alternatively, a Main Board listed entity must maintain, “a market capitalization of Rs.5 billion of its public holding in the hands of a minimum of 500 public shareholders while maintaining a minimum public
holding of 10 percent”.
Keells Food Products PLC is a Main Board Listed company and the public held 8.38 percent stake as of June 30, 2016 in the hands of 1,100 shareholders and had a market capitalization of little under Rs.4.1 billion by the last trading close.
John Keells Holdings PLC held 74.94 percent stake while its commodities broking arm, John Keels PLC and the tour operator Walkers Tours Limited held 10.09 percent and 4.86 percent stakes, respectively, taking the total stake held by John Keells Group Companies in Keells Food Products PLC to 89.89 percent by June 30.
John Keells Holdings PLC in its filing said the disposed shares amounted to 2 percent of its ultimate shareholding in Keells Food Products PLC.
With the disposal of shares, Keells Food Products PLC now meets the minimum public free float of just 10 percent in the hands of over 500 public shareholders under the alternative method but does not have a market capitalization of Rs.5 billion.
Keells Food Products PLC failed to meet the interim free float requirement of 15 percent required by December 31, 2015 as the specifics of the directive stipulated a Main Board listed entity to maintain at
least 15 percent stake in the hands of minimum 500 public shareholders by December 31, 2015.
However the directive also made provisions for such firms which are unable to meet the requirement by the deadline to seek further extension from the SEC.
The same requirement for a Diri Savi Board listed entity is 7.5 percent to be rested in the hands of a minimum of 100
While the public free float rules were intended to create a transparent and a liquid equity market, several corporates have de-listed since the rules were announced while several others are in the process
of going private.