Business Times

Ashok Leyland Colombo bourse trades to be probed

Lanka Ashok Leyland PLC (ASHO) trades early last week in the Colombo bourse, which raised many eyebrows is being referred to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) for investigation, according to sources close to SEC.

Shares amounting to 12% in the company held by L.S.I Perera, a longstanding shareholder and a director of ASHO, were allegedly subjected to force selling at Rs 1, 000 per share, when it was trading at Rs 3,000.

“The CSE wants to establish whether the seller (acting on the instructions of the bank that had provided funds for Mr. Perera to buy these shares) had ascertained whether there were other buyers at a higher price than Rs 1, 000,” a source close to SEC told the Business Times.

He said that instead of negotiating a better price for this trade, the sellers had done it through a normal order book which may have had better prices. “They want to determine whether the margin provider got the seller the ‘best’ price,” the source added.

Analysts said that this parcel was sold at an extremely low price and immediately after this sale, the ASHO share went up by more than 100 % of the sold price to Rs.2500. This block was bought by Arjun Aloysius, heading Perpetual Capital, at some Rs.450 million.

According to CSE rules, the brokers should obtain special permission from the regulator if they were to sell a certain share at more than 50 percent % or below the previous trading price. Analysts also noted that ASHO had posted strong growth for the nine months ended in December last year while the net profit for the December 2010 quarter was Rs 322 million compared to Rs 35 million in 2009.

“These strong results were released a day before this trade happened, which raises suspicions (as to why a better price wasn’t negotiated),” an analyst said. Meanwhile, CSE imposed the 10% price band on the company starting from 18 February to 11 March 2011.

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