Bank Asya vows to see off ‘smear campaign’ amid share downfall

Bank Asya vows to see off ‘smear campaign’ amid share downfall

ISTANBUL - Reuters
The head of Turkey’s Bank Asya has vowed to strengthen its capital base and see off what he described as a "systematic campaign" to undermine it, warning the attack on his bank could sour foreign investors’ views of Turkey.

In an interview on the Samanyolu Haber TV station broadcast on the late hours of Sept. 16, Chief Executive Ahmet Beyaz said Bank Asya had one of the strongest capital structures in the industry and had not turned any customers away despite its troubles.

“This bank is based on very solid foundations. Some people may have withdrawn deposits, but others have come to us,” Beyaz said.

“There is a campaign to undermine our bank,” Beyaz told Samanyolu Haber, which is close to the Gülen network.

Bank Asya’s profits and deposits tumbled in the six months since December, when the rift between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen burst into the open with a government graft scandal which the then-prime minister blamed on the cleric’s network of supporters.

Its shares have fallen nearly 50 percent since the start of this week, when they resumed trading after more than a month’s suspension over uncertainty about the bank’s future, more than halving its market capitalization since mid-December.

Beyaz said foreign investors hold half of Bank Asya’s listed shares and that the five-week suspension of its stock had worried them. A 300-billion euro fund which owns a stake had written to the government expressing concern, he said.

“This kind of unlawful and criminal activity against Bank Asya could change a large fund’s view about Turkey, not just on Bank Asya,” he said, adding that the bank had opened more than 300 court cases to defend itself.