Sri Lankan stocks up, 8-pct stake in Seylan Bank sold

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Sri Lanka’s benchmark stock index ended an 11-day losing steak Tuesday, closing slightly higher with turnover swelled by the sale of an eight percent stake in Seylan Bank, brokers said.

They said 14 million shares of Seylan Bank changed hands at 106 rupees a share in a crossing or off-the-floor negotiated deal worth 1.47 billion rupees.

The share ended at 100 rupees, up three rupees or three percent.

The All Share Price Index closed at 7,057.00, up 6.09 points (0.09 percent) while the S&P SL 20 index, which tracks the top 20 largest and most liquid stocks, ended at 4,029.30, down 6.11 points (0.15 percent).

Total turnover went up to 2.4 billion rupees because of the Seylan Bank deal.

Local investors were still hesitant because of uncertainty over the new coalition government’s policies and political stability with general elections looming after April.

Reshan Wediwardana, an analyst at First Capital Equities, said that turnover was lower than usual if the Seylan Bank deal was taken out.

"Local investors are waiting until they find clear direction," he said. "Retail and institutional participation has been really low in the last 2-3 weeks except for foreign buying."

Foreign buyers have buying in recent days.

"Foreigners have kept on buying John Keells Holdings at 205," Wediwardana said. "Foreign funds find Sri Lankan stocks cheap compared with regional markets. JKH is the only diversified company with the size, market cap and liquidity required by foreign buyers."