Sri Lankan shares up, Lanka Cement draws interest

April 01, 2009 (LBO) – Sri Lankan stocks edged higher on Wednesday boosted by speculative trading by small investors in Lanka Cement, which has a defunct plant in the north that is being eyed by foreign firms, brokers said.

The All Share Price Index was up 0.10 percent (1.70 points) to end at 1,639.76 while the more liquid Milanka slid 0.52 percent (8.98 points) to close at 1,727.22.

Turnover was 116.9 million rupees.

Almost 2.5 million shares of Lanka Cement changed hands. Lanka Cement gained 1.50 rupees to close at 12.50.

State-owned Lanka Cement has said it has received offers from foreign firms to revive its plant in northern Jaffna that has not been functioning because of the Tamil separatist war.

But with the war drawing to a close as the army has cornered the Tamil rebels, the government is seeking foreign investment to rebuild the plant, which sits on a rich deposit of limestone, the basic raw material for cement manufacture.

“There was renewed retail interest on Lanka Cement,” said Shivantha Meepage of Acuity Stockbrokers.

“Some investors showed relatively high interest in Commercial Bank shares as well.”

Commercial Bank lost 50 cents to close at 78.75.

Fixed line giant Sri Lanka Telecom was up 75 cents to close at 34.25.

Conglomerate John Keells Holdings lost 25 cents to close at 62.50.