Sri Lanka stocks close higher

March 18, 2008 (LBO) – Colombo stocks closed higher with Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) gaining 1.25 rupees, on expectations of an imminent sale, driving the benchmark index higher, dealers said.

Meanwhile, the spot dollar traded at 107.60 rupees Tuesday. The All Share Index closed up 0.32 percent (8.11 points) at 2,551.29 points Tuesday.

The liquid Milanka Index also closed 0.70 percent (22.25 points) higher at 3,219.00 points.

SLT has been moving up since a court order preventing Japan’s NTT Communications from selling its 35.2 percent stake to Malaysia’s UT group was lifted two weeks ago.

SLT closed at 40.75 rupees after peaking at 41.25 adding 211.9 million rupees to the day’s turnover of 378.6 million rupees.

The market is expecting a deal to come as early as next week, after the shares were lodged in the island’s depository system, dealers said.

So far this month, 81 million shares had been traded, amid speculation that the UT group was also picking up sizable stakes which come up for sale.

The companies were negotiating an exchange loss, brokers also said.

Dialog Telekom, Sri Lanka’s mobile operator traded flat at 17.25 rupees.

Punters were also chasing banks stocks with Commercial Bank of Ceylon and Hatton National Bank trading small amounts of shares.

Commercial Bank however, closed 25 cents higher at 141.75 while Hatton National Bank closed 50 cents lower at 124, Tuesday.

John Keells Holdings share closed flat at 120.00 rupees while-index heavy Bukit Darah closed five rupees lower at 1,310.00, Colombo Stock Exchange provisional data showed.

Plantation stocks were quiet with lesser retail buying where the listed plantations companies contributed less than 20 million rupees to the day’s total turnover of 378.6 million.