Ceylon Guardian Investment Trust PLC, the Carson’s group company owning a multi- billion rupee portfolio of quoted securities, has expressed confidence in the long-term potential of Sri Lankan equities and the sustainability of the economic development plans set in place after the end of a 30-year civil war in 2009.
The largest listed investment trust quoted on the CSE, Guardian’s quoted subsidiaries are Ceylon Investments PLC and Guardian Capital Partners PLC, and unquoted subsidiaries are Rubber Investment Trust Ltd. And Guardian Fund Management Ltd.
The company’s Chairman, Mr. Israel Paulraj, has said in Guardiasn’s annual report that they retained confidence "despite the clouding effect of both local and overseas macro factors.’’
The year under review had seen the group’s revenue dip 21% to Rs.1.64 billion and the profit attributable to equity holders of the parent company down 13% to Rs.1.88 billion according to the results published in the report.
Paulraj said that the year under review had been a challenging one with the Colombo stock market experiencing much volatility and recording marginal positive growth.
"Economic concerns added to the prevailing sentiment had driven investors to fixed income products in the backdrop of a rising interest rate scenario," he said.
"We believe that the long-term development potential of Sri Lanka will flow through to its equity markets and ratios such as market capitalization to GDP (currently at 29%) will improve in the near future to more mature markets levels," Paulraj said.
"Short-term blips however are likely to bring uncertainty to equity investors, but we remain confident that in the long haul the vagaries of the market will be ironed out."
In this context, Ceylon Guardian being a long time investor remains buoyant and would look to exploit weaknesses in equity markets to its advantage, the chairman said.
The profit of Rs.2.29 billion after-tax, despite market volatility, was possible by the company booking profits in selected over-valued stocks. They had booked substantial capital gains despite volatile market conditions.
"Our portfolio value decreased to Rs.26.03 billion from Rs.28.05 billion a year earlier; recording a depreciation of 7.2% vis-a-vis a 5.8% increase in the benchmark All Share Index and 10.3% appreciation in the newly constructed Standard & Poors Sri Lanka 20 Index," Paulraj said.
The company was willing to hold cash positions and patiently await opportunities during times of market uncertainty, Paulraj said.
"We are not discouraged by the present volatile sentiment at the Colombo bourse, nor are we overconfident of future expectations on the equity front. We remain practical and our investments would be guided on pure fundamentals," he declared.
Guardian Fund Management Limited, the managers of the company’s portfolio, reported that the CSE was fairly valued vis-à-vis other regional markets although the performance of the Sri Lankan market in relation to other regional peers had been poor.
"Though Sri Lanka too has its own economic concerns, the stock market has been on an uptrend. Further, we are wary of capital flights from equities given the proposed large debenture issues at attractive rates by private sector companies and banks in the near term," the managers said.
"The fixed income market also has an added attractiveness due to tax advantages announced in the recent budget thus being very attractive to both retail and corporate investors."
Ceylon Guardian Investment Trust had a stated capital of Rs.953.2 million, a group capital reserve of over Rs.1.5 billion and group revenue reserves of Rs.12.24 billion in its books as at March 31, 2013. The company’s capital reserve was Rs.408.7 million and its revenue reserve Rs.4.4 billion.
Group total assets ran at Rs.18 billion (company Rs.5.6 billion) while group total liabilities stood at Rs.92.9 million (company Rs.41.9 million).
The company’s net assets per ordinary share had grown to Rs.63.33 from Rs.60.91 at book value, but was down to Rs.213.71 from Rs.232.14 in terms of market value of its portfolio.
Carson Cumberbatch with 67.15% of the company is its largest shareholder followed by Thurston Investments (6.43%) and the estate of the late Mr. M. Radhakrishnan (2.48%). The ETF Board with 1.54% (up from 1.38% the previous year), the DFCC Bank (0.33%) and the General Fund of the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation (0.33%) are also among the 20 major shareholders.
The company’s share traded at a high of Rs.231 and a low of Rs.144 during the year under review against a trading range of Rs.402 to Rs.231 the previous year.
The directors of the company are: Messrs. Israel Paulraj (Chairman), D.C.R. Gunawardena, A. de Z. Gunasekera, V.M. Fernando, Mrs. M.A.R.C. Cooray, K. Selvanathan and C.W. Knight.