Sri Lanka shares plunge in widespread sell-off

Oct 10, 2008 (LBO) – Sri Lankan share prices fell sharply Friday as investors appeared unnerved by the global stock market rout, with the benchmark index slumping below the psychologically important 2,000 point mark, brokers said.

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The All Share Price Index fell 4.39 percent (88.41 points) to 1,924.69 while the Milanka was down 4.74 percent (105.69 points) to 2,125.40. Turnover was 182 million rupees.

Niroshan Bibile of SC Securities said the market came down sharply but recovered slightly towards the end of trading.

“Almost all stocks, not only the blue chips, plunged,” he said. “Retailers are jittery about the future because of the global crash. Retailers are the main reason why shares are dropping.”

Angelo Ranasinghe of Bartleet Mallory Stockbrokers said local investors appear to be worried of a foreign sell-off on the Colombo bourse.

“The Colombo market never had correlation to global markets but investors appear to be reacting negatively anticipating foreign selling because of the global sell-off,” he said.

“Local investors believe stocks with a large foreign exposure may fall. So they may be selling thinking that foreigners will sell their holdings. That’s triggered huge selling pressure and there’s not enough support.”

John Keells Holdings, a foreign investor favourite, fell sharply Friday while Dialog Telekom, another favourite has also slumped badly in recent days.

John Keells Holdings was the most actively traded stock Friday and ended down 3.53 percent (2.75 rupees) at 75.25 rupees while Dialog Telekom closed flat at seven rupees.

Other heavyweight also fell like Sri Lanka Telecom which was down 4.88 percent (two rupees) to close at 39 rupees and Distilleries Company which fell 7.02 percent (4.25 rupees) to 56.25.

Maskeliya Plantations, the second most actively traded stock, fell 7.48 percent (two rupees) to 24.75 rupees.

Ranasinghe of Bartleet Mallory Stockbrokers said it may be natural for foreign funds which are liquidating their positions worldwide because of the crash to sell in the Colombo market as well.

“But ours’ is a very small market. Some foreign funds may be holding because share prices have come down so sharply that’s there’s a big difference between their buying price and now.”

Bibile of SC Securities said there was no evidence yet of large foreign sales.

“If the fall was because of global markets falling then we would have seen foreign selling. But throughout the week, except Thursday, foreign funds have not been selling.”