Sri Lanka stocks becalmed as market awaits IMF support

Mar 13, 2009 (LBO) – Sri Lankan shares closed almost flat Friday with a fall in the local unit of Nestle pulling down the main index in thin trade as investors stayed out of the market owing to uncertainty.

Brokers said investors were disappointed by the slowdown in the war against Tamil Tigers after government promises of an early end and were also waiting for details of a 1.9 billion dollar support package from the International Monetary Fund.

The All Share Price Index closed down 0.08 percent (1.38 points) to end at 1,632.87, while the more liquid Milanka Index went up 0.61 percent (10.22 points) to close at 1,697.93.

Turnover was 82.3 million rupees.

The local unit of Nestle, the Swiss food multinational, which is the second largest milk powder distributor in Sri Lanka, was down 15 rupees to close at 300. Only 500 Nestle shares were traded.

The other milk distributor, Lanka Milk Foods, was up one rupee to close at 38.25.

Kuruwita Textiles with 19.4 million rupees and Dialog Telekom with 18.4 million topped the day’s turnover list.

Kuruwita was 25 cents up to close at 22.75 rupees, while Dialog was up 10 cents to close at 4.80.

“Most investors who are away from the market are waiting for some sort of direction from the war front which is taking longer than anticipated by some of the investors,” said Geeth Balasuriya of Acuity Stockbrokers.

“Also investors are carefully looking at the current government discussions with the IMF.”

Index heavy weight conglomerate John Keells Holdings, which has business interests in finance, transport, retail and leisure sectors, closed flat at 57.

Fixed line giant Sri Lanka Telecom was down 25 cents to close at 33.50.

Sri Lanka’s largest private bank, Commercial Bank of Ceylon, was down 25 cents, to close at 79.75.