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Sri Lankan shares up on telco buying, rupee firmer

 COLOMBO, March 26 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan shares inched up
on Wednesday, with bluechip Sri Lanka Telecom SLTL.CM leading
the way as investors expected a stake in the firm to be sold at
a premium to Malaysia's Maxis soon, traders said.
 The rupee closed firmer on profit taking.
 The Colombo All-Share index .CSE rose 0.15 percent or
3.78 points to 2,549.56. The market has been choppy since it
hit a 3-½   month closing high on March 12.
 Sri Lanka Telecom, the country's top fixed-line operator,
closed 0.62 percent up at 40.50 rupees a share as calculated on
a weighted average. It accounted for around 30 percent of
market turnover of 586.8 million rupees ($5.44 million).
 "Investors heavily traded SLT (Sri Lanka Telecom) shares
expecting the stake sale to go through soon," said Vajira
Premawardhana, head of research at Lanka Orix Securities.
 The firm's stock has risen over 8 percent since the Supreme
Court on March 10 allowed Japan's Nippon Telegraph and
Telephone Corp 9432.T to sell a stake in the firm to
Malaysian mobile network operator Maxis Communications.
 The deal was earlier tipped to go through last week at
above 42 rupees a share, but some traders now see it topping 52
rupees.
 Despite the optimism, some investors booked profits in the
firm.
 Conglomerate John Keells Holdings JKH.CM, which accounts
for 10 percent of total market capitalisation, rose 0.84
percent to 120 rupees a share. Investors expect it to announce
strong earnings for the year to end-March, traders said.
 Local lender Nations Trust Bank NTB.CM closed 3.45
percent firmer at 30 rupees on strategic buying, while large
cap diversified holdings Ceylon Theatres Ltd CTHR.CM rose
4.44 percent to 4,700 rupees after a share split on Tuesday.
 The market is 0.34 percent up for the year so far after
sliding almost 7 percent in early January, when the government
formally scrapped a shaky truce with Tamil Tiger rebels.
 The rupee LKR= closed at 107.72/78 per dollar, up from
Tuesday's 107.90/95. The currency hit a 14-month high of
107.40/50 on March 10.
 "The rupee strengthened with the profit-taking," said a
currency dealer.
 Traders said banks sold dollars as rupee borrowing was
expensive with the interbank lending rate hovering around 18
percent, offering further support for the rupee.
 The interday call money rate CLIBOR fell to 18.315
percent, from Tuesday's 18.711 percent.
 ($1=107.75 rupees)
 (Editing by Rob Taylor/Mark Williams)

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