Sri Lanka shares end firmer

March 27, 2009 (LBO) – Sri Lankan shares ended firmer Friday with the indices pushed up by gains in John Keells Holdings, Distilleries and also Seylan Bank, in which a controlling stake was offered for sale by the central bank, brokers said.

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The All Share Price Index rose 0.70 percent (11.48points) to end at 1,648.44 while the more liquid Milanka went up 1.34 percent (23.28 points) to close at 1,757.74.

Turnover was 186 million rupees.

Seylan Bank, the most actively traded stock, shot up 15.62 percent or five rupees to 37 rupees after the central bank advertised the sale of a controlling stake to a local or foreign investor.

The central bank said the strategic investor would be required to invest 5.7 billion rupees for a 33 percent stake in Seylan Bank, part of the troubled Ceylinco group.

The banking regulator placed Seylan under the management of state-owned Bank of Ceylon in December after it was affected by the collapse of another Ceylinco group unlisted firm, Golden Key Credit Card Company.

Transactions in JKH accounted for the bulk of the day’s trading volumes, with over 1.6 million shares done mostly at 64 rupees, generating a turnover of 104 million rupees.

JKH ended up 3.61 percent or 2.25 rupees at 64.50 rupees.

Distilleries Company went up 4.44 percent or 2.75 to end at 64.75 rupees.

Brokers Lanka Securities said share trading volumes during the week were boosted by strategic transfers in Carsons Group Malaysian oil palm companies and large parcels of JKH in which the Galleon Fund divested a five percent stake.

“Exceptional transactions in JKH (foreign sales) and Carson’s oil palm companies (foreign purchases) accounted for around 75 percent of the total market turnover during the week,” they said in a report.

“Foreigners ended the week as net sellers with net foreign sales of 1245.4 million rupees and represented 39.4 percent of the total market activity.”

Bartleet Mallroy Stockbrokers said the Galleon Fund’s divestment of its five percent stake in JKH meant the fund was probably looking at cutting losses it has made in other markets due to the global credit crunch.

The buyer is believed to Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation (SLIC) which is part of the Distilleries Company group controlled by Harry Jayawardena.

After this deal, SLIC is said to have a seven percent stake in JKH resulting in speculation of a take over bid by Distilleries, Bartleet Mallory Stockbrokers said in a report.