Sri Lankan shares fall 1.9-pct

Nov 24, 2009 (LBBO) – Sri Lankan stock prices fell across the board Tuesday on retail investor worries about the political and economic future after the government announced a snap presidential poll, brokers said.

The All Share Price Index closed at 2,875.39, down 1.90 percent (55.68 points) while the Milanka Price Index of more liquid stocks closed at 3,273.11, down 2.15 percent (71.89 points).

Turnover was 253.4 million rupees, according to provisional Colombo Stock Exchange statistics.

“Investors were bothered by the possibility of instability in the socio-political scenario,” Nikita Tissera of SC Securities said.

“Investors view uncertainty worse than bad news itself.”

The government has announced a snap presidential poll early next year with the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa being challenged by his former chief of defence staff, Sarath Fonseka, a retired general who is the opposition candidate.

Fonseka is a former army commander who led the victorious military campaign that crushed the Tamil Tiger separatists in May, ending a 30-year ethnic war.

A snap election could generate uncertainty, analysts said.

In Tuesday’s trade, conglomerate John Keells Holdings closed at 138.75 rupees, down 3.25, and Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka closed at 89.50 rupees, down 2.50.

Diversified Hayleys closed at 155.25 rupees, down 1.00.

In the banking sector, Commercial Bank closed at 173.25 rupees, down 2.25, Hatton National Bank at 160.50 rupees, down 6.25, National Development Bank at 179.00 rupees, down 3.50, and DFCC Bank at 143.75 rupees, down 3.75.

Sampath Bank closed flat at 180.00 rupees, and Seylan Bank closed at 35.00 rupees, down 75 cents.

“We expect the market to recover and pickup once we have some stability,” Tissera said.

Sri Lanka’s largest celco Dialog Telekom closed at 7.00 rupees, down 25 cents, and Sri Lanka Telecom closed at 40.50 rupees, down 1.25.

Retailer favourites Lanka Cement closed at 20.50 rupees, down 2.00, and Touchwood Investment closed at 77.00 rupees, down 3.50.