RP shares higher on bargain-hunting

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 19 2009 12:52 PM | Updated as of Feb 19 2009 09:55 PM

Philippine share prices closed 0.4 percent higher Thursday as investors selectively grabbed bargains after a four-day slide, dealers said.

The composite index added 7.57 points to 1,899.80 while the all-shares index gained 0.5 percent to 1,234.51.

Decliners led gainers 42 to 41 while 40 issues were unchanged.

Turnover totalled 996.8 million shares worth P2.96 billion ($61.7 million).

In morning trade the peso averaged 47.939 to the dollar.

"We're moving up because of one issue -- Meralco," Jose Vistan of AB Capital Securities told Dow Jones Newswires.

He said there was renewed speculation that listed San Miguel Corp., a key shareholder in Manila Electric Co., better known as Meralco, was intent on taking control of the top electricity distributor.

San Miguel has previously denied these reports, but the market zeroed in on comments by a senior San Miguel official in a meeting with President Gloria Arroyo on Tuesday during which the San Miguel man pledged cheaper power rates.

Meralco shares surged 7.3 percent to P88, their highest level in 14 months while accounting for half of the exchange's total volume turnover for the day.

Meralco sister firm Energy Development Corp. gained 4.3 percent to P2.42, while Philippine Long Distance Telephone added 0.5 percent to P2,190.

San Miguel A and B shares both rose 1.2 percent to 42.50 and P43, respectively.