Sri Lanka stocks end down 1.5-pct

Nov 14, 2011 (LBO) – Sri Lankan shares tumbled Monday with a rating agency warning a new expropriation law could hurt the investment climate and a listed hotel saying all its shares were now owned by the state. The main All Share Price Index fell 1.47 percent (92.95 points) to 6,239.52, while the more liquid Milanka index fell 2.05 percent (116.13 points) to close at 5,535.74, according to stock exchange figures.

Turnover was 519 million rupees with no crossings or off-the-floor private deals, brokers said.

Uncertainty over a business expropriation law passed last week and next week’s government budget have added to prevailing negative sentiment among investors, brokers said.

Hotel Developers (Lanka), owners of Hilton Colombo Hotel, said in a stock exchange filing that all its shares were now held by the secretary to the government treasury under the new law.

“At this moment we are not in a postion to comment on the impact of the legislation on the company and its shareholders as we await instructions from the secretary to the treasury,” it said.

Moody’s rating agency warned that the law expropriating assets of dozens of private firms including two listed ones could hurt the island’s credit and cloud its investment climate.

It has also created uncertainty about property rights and policy, Moody’s said.

“Despite authorities’ statement that this is a one-off move and that further expropriation will not occur, the measure may undermine the predictability of future policies and increase investor uncertainty, which would make it credit negative for Sri Lanka,” Moody’s said in a statement.

In Monday’s trade on the Colombo bourse HVA Foods was the most actively traded stock, closing at 41 rupees, down two rupees with 529,900 shares done.

Transactions in Asiri Surgical Hospital generated the biggest turnover with the stock closing flat at 7.90 rupees and over 5.19 million shares changing hands.

Dialog Axiata closed at 7.90 rupees, down 20 cents with 5.13 million shares traded.

John Keells Holdings closed at 188.20 rupees, down 4.40 rupees with 189,500 shares traded, accounting for the day’s third highest turnover.

Lanka Securities said in a report that the overall sentiment was negative.

“Foreign participation was lower and it accounted for 7.0 percent of the total market activity. Foreign investors ended as net sellers with a net outflow of 29.4 million rupees.”