Sri Lankan stocks attract foreign investors

Feb 19, 2009 (LBO) – Sri Lankan shares closed down Thursday but foreign investors have begun taking medium to long-term positions on blue chips like John Keells Holdings (JKH), Hemas Holdings and Dialog Telekom, brokers said. Dialog Telekom lost 10 cents to close at 4.90 rupees, while Sri Lanka Telecom lost 50 cents to close the 34.75.

The JKH conglomerate was the most heavily traded share in the morning with 749,000 shares changing hands between 65 and 65.25 rupees.

The other notable heavily traded share was a transaction of 314,000 shares of Hemas Holdings which changed hands at 63 rupees.

JKH gained 50 cents to close at 65.25. Hemas Holdings closed flat at 65.

Malwatte Valley Plantations was actively traded with 265,000 shares changing hands between 21 and 22 rupees. Malwatte lost 25 cents to close at 21.75.

Commercial Bank lost one rupee to close at 89.

The All Share Price Index eased 0.78 percent (13.52 points) to end at 1,724.42 while the more liquid Milanka lost 0.71 percent (13.21 points) to close at 1,837.32.

Turnover was 156.6 million rupees.

“Current prices are attractive on most of the blue chip stocks. Foreign buying is continuing on JKH,” said Angelo Ranasinghe of Bartleet Mallory Stockbrokers.

“Dialog has lost 75 percent from its peak price, JKH has lost 50 percent.”

Brokers said there were signs that foreign investors were returning to the market which has long been in the doldrums with the ethnic war that had deterred investment drawing to an end.

“Foreign investors are interested in selected stocks. They are slowly accumulating with minimum impact to the indices. This kind of buying is expected to continue in most of the liquid counters,” said Thakshila Hulangamuwa, vice president, business development, at Asha Phillip Securities.

Within an hour of the market opening 6.7 million Dialog shares changed hands among foreign investors at five rupees per share. A further 100,000 Dialog shares changed hands at 4.90.