Asset Switch

Apr 05, 2010 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s state-run funds are buying into private banks as foreign investors continued to exit the country, while governments elsewhere, which had ‘nationalized’ banks in a banking panic were starting to sell out. Up to March foreign investors have sold out of about 13 billion rupees worth of stocks on a net basis.

Analysts say part of the outflow stemmed from sales by US-based Galleon Fund manager Raj Rajaratnam, while others who had been in the country for years were exiting with capital gains after the market rose 125 percent last year.

Brokers said most of the stocks shed by foreign funds were stocks like John Keells Holdings (JKH), Commercial Bank of Ceylon, National Development Bank and Hatton National Bank (HNB).

In to the breach

Analysts say a large proportion of the foreign selling was absorbed by entities like the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF), two retirement funds of private citizens managed by the state.

Other entities including state-run Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation (SLIC), National Savings Bank (NSB) and Bank of Ceylon (BoC) were also buying into banks, brokers said.

Sri Lanka’s state is tightening its grip on banks as the Uni