Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sri Lanka bourse up on big foreign buy in Keells

* Foreign inflow at 1.03 bln rupees

* First year-to-date net inflow since 2009

* Keells posts Dec. quarter gain of 56 pct

COLOMBO, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's share market gained on Thursday in improved volume led by a big foreign buy of market heavyweight John Keells Holdings, helping it record a net offshore inflow for the first time since mid-2009.

The main share index rose 0.65 percent or 36.11 points to 5,592.40, recovering from its lowest level since Aug. 18, 2010, which it touched on Tuesday.

The island nation's bourse saw net foreign buying of 1.03 billion rupees, the highest since May 8, after a Singapore-based fund bought around 7.7 million Keells shares.

After the market closed, Keells posted a 56 percent gain in its December quarter earnings. The conglomerate, which is a favourite of foreign buyers because it is one of the few profitable Sri Lankan shares with a large free float, rose 2.13 percent to 163.40 rupees at the close.

The $18 billion bourse has seen a net offshore inflow of 908.43 million so far this year, after net outflows of 19.1 billion last year and a record 26.4 billion in 2010.

The index was still in the oversold region on Thursday with the Relative Strength Index at 27.965 up from Wednesday's 26.078, slightly below the lower neutral range of 30, Reuters data showed.

It is still the worst performer among Asian markets with a 7.94 percent loss so far this year. It was 10th-best in 2011, after being on top in 2009-2010.

Top lender Commercial Bank of Ceylon rose 0.4 percent to 100 rupees on foreign selling of 2.7 million shares. Retail favourite Asia Asset Finance Ltd rose 9.23 percent to 7.10 rupees.

Conglomerate Aitken Spence PLC after the market closed said in a filing to the bourse that it would realise a capital gain of 630 million rupees on the sale of its 30 percent stake in Colombo harbour container terminal joint venture.

Shares of Spence fell 0.45 percent to 109.50 rupees.

The day's turnover was 2.29 billion Sri Lanka rupees ($20.11 million), highest since Dec. 1 and in line last year's average of 2.3 billion. Volume was 51.9 million shares. Last year's daily average was a record 102.7 million.

The index lost 8.5 percent in 2011 and was Asia's 10th-best performer after being top in the region until June. It was Asia's best in 2009 and 2010.

The rupee closed flat at 113.89/90 to the dollar for a 44th straight session since a Nov. 21 devaluation with the central bank selling around $20 million to defend it, dealers said.

The bank has spent more than $1.07 billion keeping the exchange rate steady since Nov. 21. It spent a net $1.79 billion in the first 10 months of last year to keep depreciation at bay.

Brokers said the market is awaiting the views of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the rupee. A team from the global lender is in Sri Lanka to review its $2.6 billion loan. ($1 = 113.8900 Sri Lanka rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Bryson Hull)

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