Daily FT views these as serious allegations especially since they were made in Parliament.
Whilst the Opposition Leader’s remarks expose all newspapers, we like to reiterate that the FT remains the only newspaper which made a voluntary disclosure that none of the staff trade in shares in the Colombo Stock Exchange. The FT can certainly defend itself because all that we have exposed/reported from day one since Sri Lanka’s only business daily was launched is on paper/print though it appears Wickremesinghe hasn’t been doing any reading and is only a late graduate to the FT.
For the longstanding and loyal readers of the Daily FT, the sample list of headlines/exposés listed below will be a repetition, but we seek their patience in order to educate the Opposition/UNP Leader as well as Members of Parliament on the FT’s exposés of the past.
Though it is only of late that the people have heard Wickremesinghe making a hue and cry, akin to having woken up from a deep slumber, the Daily FT has reported almost every significant stock market investment (in blue chips and otherwise) of not only EPF but several other State funds as well. The sample list of articles below shows that the FT began exposing them since March 2010, two years ago and within months of the FT’s launch.
It was the Daily FT which continuously highlighted the EPF’s dominance in banking sector investments, its influence on board appointments and overall governance issues. More recently the FT was credited with opening the lid on the contentious deal between NSB-TFC as well as MBSL trying to sell Savings Bank subsidiary to a consortium. Since then both deals have been abandoned. In fact the Opposition has found the FT a useful referral to kick off agitation against bad governance.
Given its professionalism and objectivity, Daily FT is constantly under attack by the Central Bank and lately by the Opposition Leader. Whilst giving coverage to all sides as well as reporting the market, the FT remains unbiased.
Ironically, the criticism from Wickremesinghe also comes a fortnight after the Daily FT splashed on the front page his special statement in Parliament urging the Government to table all EPF and ETF investments since January 2010 to April 2012.
If Wickremesinghe was a reader of the FT from the start, he would have had more information in his quest for accountability and good governance from State institutions. It was in this spirit that the FT’s front page has regularly given due coverage to UNP and its firebrand on economic issues Dr. Harsha De Silva (unless Wickremesinghe treats his MP as not part of UNP) as well as giving readers and experts/columnists a forum to boldly expose same issues. It was perhaps because FT coverage was so overpowering that Government circles even alleged that the paper was the mouthpiece of the UNP, though its Leader in turn has accused us as being part of the stock market mafia!
In 2010 (over two years ago):
* 25 March: Govt. becomes biggest shareholder of HNB
* 25 March: State looks for more NDB Board seats; 3 independent directors quit
* 12 May: EPF buys 10% stake in Galadari for Rs. 680 m
* 14 May: EPF now buys into Continental owning Hotel Services
* 24 May: EPF gets hungrier, buys 1 m more of HNB for Rs. 245 m
* 20 June: Meet your banker – The Govt! : State owned or controlled institutions and funds have taken over key shareholdings in private banks during past six months
* 9 August: EPF buys 1 m more shares of COMBank
* 12 August: EPF, NSB buy into Dipped Products
* 30 August: EPF’s new search of providence: Despite raging debate ups stakes in banks between March and June
* 8 October: State funds buy into Browns but Bourse dip persists
* 10 February: EPF back in Bourse, buys 1% of COMBank for Rs. 1 b
* 11 February: EPF picks up more of COMBank shares
* 7 March: EPF buying into LAUGFS: (FT was first to report initial buying several months before the mega deal took place, which Wickremesinghe is today agitating after a year has lapsed)
* 10 March: EPF steps up buying into JKH
* 30 March: EPF ups COMBank stake to 9%
Picks up a fresh 1.2% stake for Rs. 1.19 b from foreign fund
* 20 April: Carson sells, EPF buys 1 m shares of Spence for Rs. 165 m
* 21 April: EPF invests more in Aitken Spence
* 25 May: EPF buys 1 m more shares of Spence Hotel Holdings
* 10 June: EPF’s Aitken Spence stake tops 5%
* 14 June: UNP hails IMF’s dig at governance over EPF investments in banks
* 15 June: EPF buys more into Ahungalla
* 28 June: EPF active in bearish Bourse Buys 2% of Central Finance, 1 million Aitken Spence shares
* 29 June: Spence savvy EPF: With more buying pension fund now owns 6.4% of parent and 8% of AHUN
* 28 July: EPF buys 3.5% Browns stake for Rs. 737 m
* 18 August: EPF ups take in Vallibel One to 2%
* 19 August: EPF buys more of VOL
* 1 September: SLIC sells 3.4% DFCC stake to EPF for Rs.1.2 b
* 12 October: EPF buying LAUGFS: No fire without a smoke!
• Biggest fund decides to buy 8% stake in fast diversifying local firm with share price on the up; Pays Rs. 48 per share in Rs. 1.5 b deal; Ups holding to 14%; LAUGFS Holdings sells down
•Analysts question pricing and timing of the deal
* 25 October: LAUGFS Gas has the last laugh at EPF? Within weeks after selling 8% stake in LAUGFS Gas Plc to EPF at Rs. 48 per share the controlling shareholder has collected quantities at prices 20% cheaper.
* 28 November: Top stocks lose Rs. 280 b in value
A sample of top 20 stocks have lost a combined value of Rs. 280 billion so far this year with analysts pointing to the Government as the biggest loser given its major holdings via State funds.
* 15 February: EPF on a buying spree
* 3 April: EPF buys 5% more of Piramal Glass for Rs. 280.5 m; with 10% stake now biggest local shareholder