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Otara Gunewardene as she appears in the latest annual report of Odel PLC. The tall and willowy Gunewardene who had been a fashion model from before she launched her brand has been her company’s most visible brand ambassador.

Before the sell-off to Softlogic on Sept. 11, Odel had been looking at leveraging synergies with Parkson "to take our brand to international markets and to bring more international brands to Sri Lanka," Odel Chairman Ruchi Gunewardene has said in the company’s recently released annual report.

Parkson Retail Asia Limited with 47.46% of Odel was the company’s top shareholder as at March 31, 2014. Pathirage’s Softlogic has acquired 45% thereafter.

With Softlogic acquiring the shares of Ms. Otara Gunewardene and her brothers Ajit and Ruchi, and a mandatory offer at a price of Rs.22 per share pending, analysts expect Softlogic to become the controlling shareholder.

Softlogic Chairman, Ashok Pathirage is on record saying that he was open to working with Parkson. However, Parkson’s intentions have still not been made public.

Ruchi Gunewardene said in the annual report that they have significant land banks under their belt opposite the Town Hall and at Battaramulla. He noted that there are only a few available vacant blocks of this scale in Colombo and Greater Colombo giving them some good strategic expansion options.

"Our management team is working hard with the architects and local authorities to finalize these 

plans," he said.

He also reported that they have invested heavily in upgrading their information technology system which will enable them to better serve customers and they were making significant progress in their human resources management to ensure better train and motivate employees to provide superior customer service.

Otara Gunewardene said in what was perhaps her last CEO’s letter in the Odel annual report that the introduction of the new VAT on retail businesses earnings of Rs.500 million a quarter had impacted retail sales and margins during FY 2013. This had impacted their bottom line.

"However, with improved sourcing, continuous negotiations and more efficient supply chain management, we were able to offset this to a great extent and hope to see improvement to the bottom line in the years ahead," she said.

The annual report did not offer any hint of the Gunewardenes planning to exit the company which Otara founded.

The company’s AGM was held on Sept. 9 in Colombo.

Other than the Parkson and Otara and Ajit Gunewardene, Dr. T. Senthilverl, with 1.87% is the biggest shareholder ranking No.4.

Net assets per share were up to Rs.19.18 from Rs.18.72 the previous year. The Odel share traded at a high of Rs.28.10 and a low of Rs.18.10 during the year under review against a trading range of Rs.26.90 to Rs.16 the previous year.

The directors of the company are (as at March 31, 2014): Mr. Ruchi Gunewardene (Chairman), Ms. Otara Gunewardene, Messrs. Paul Topping, Sanjay Kulatunga, Ignatius Perera, Yoong Choong, Kheng San, Koh Huat Lai, Hia Ngee Yeow (alternate to Datuk Cheng Yoong Choong).

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