Sri Lankan stocks close up 4.73-pct

Aug 10, 2010 (LBO) – Sri Lankan stocks rallied and closed sharply higher, bouncing back over the 5,000 points mark Tuesday, after plunging at the opening, brokers said. In a privately negotiated off-the-floor deal, Perpetual Capital bought 908,000 shares of Housing Development and Finance Corporation (a 14.03 percent stake) at 310.00 rupees per share.

Institutional and high net-worth investors looked to pick up bargains, brokers said.

Environmental Resources Investments (ERI) and Touchwood, two of the stocks in which speculative trading prompted the imposition of a daily price band, made strong gains, they said.

Some of the speculative stocks that rallied Tuesday rose 10 percent or almost 10 percent, the maximum daily movement in price allowed under the price band.

The price band was imposed by the markets regulator after months of speculative trading in certain stocks whose prices shot up with no change in their fundamentals.

The regulator was prompted to act to bring about some order in the market and protect genuine investors, officials have said.

Market analysts say price manipulation and insider dealing have long been rumoured in Colombo’s tiny stock market whose small size makes it susceptible to manipulation by investors with deep pockets.

The All Share Price Index closed at 5,092.94, up 4.73 percent (230.08 points) Tuesday while the Milanka index of more liquid stocks gained 4.64 percent (257.69 points) to close at 5,806.84, according to stock exchange provisional figures.

Turnover was 3.7 billion rupees.

There was institutional and high net-worth interest mostly on blue chip stocks, brokers said.

A senior official from the Central Bank rejected market rumors that the Employees’ Provident Fund, a pension fund run by the banking regulator, had bought into index heavy stocks to prop-up the index.

ERI group and Touchwood Investments, which were under investigation for price manipulation and in which trading was temporarily halted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last week, made significant gains after three days of declines, brokers said.

The trade halt was lifted on August 05, after the firms told the markets regulator they were unaware why their shares prices had fluctuated sharply.

Environmental Resources Investments (ERI) and its subsidiaries were amongst the worst hit shares after the price band came into play last week. ERI shares and warrants lost about 10 percent of value on Thursday, 9.77 percent on Friday and went down a further 9.92 percent on Monday, brokers said.

ERI normal shares closed at 102.80 rupees, up 9.30 (9.95 percent), while its Warrants 0001 closed at 85.60 rupees, up 7.30 (9.32 percent) and W0002 closed at 57.40 rupees, up 5.20 (9.96 percent).

ERI’s W0003 closed at 54.50 rupees, up 4.90 (9.88 percent) and W0006 closed at 54.80 rupees, up 4.90 (9.82 percent), brokers said.

Dankotuwa Porcelain, a connected firm, fell nine rupees (9,97 percent) to close at 81.30 rupees, while Ceylon Leather Products, part of the ERI group, closed at 219.10 rupees, up 19.90, or almost 10 percent.