Expected arbitration ruling plays role in Russian Alfa’s decision to sell Turkcell stakes: Sources
Hülya Güler - ISTANBULA possible ruling in favor of Turkey’s Çukurova Holding by a U.K.-based arbitration court has played a significant role in a recent decision by the company’s Russian partner in Turkcell, Alfa Telecom, about selling its Turkcell stakes, sources told daily Hürriyet.
Ziraat Bank is expected to play a key role in the transaction, added sources.
Alfa Telecom said March 25 it was ready to sell a 13.22 percent indirect stake in Turkcell to Çukurova and Ziraat Bank for a total of around $2.7 billion, according to a statement to the Istanbul bourse. The announcement is the latest twist in a dispute over control of Turkey’s top mobile operator which stretches back almost a decade, a tussle that has prevented some dividends from being paid and hampered the company’s development.
Alfa, part of Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s business empire, has been locked in a legal battle with equity partner Çukurova, run by Turkcell’s founder Mehmet Emin Karamehmet.
Alfa said it was willing to sell 49 class-A shares in Çukurova Telecom Holdings Limited for $54.9 million per share, equivalent to 13.22 percent of Turkcell.
The London Arbitration Court completed its reviews last week over a dispute application in 2014 by Alfa Telecom in Turkcell, sources close to the matter told daily Hürriyet. The court is expected to give a decision over the Turkcell stakes in the next six months.
The court decision will likely on the behalf of Çukurova Holding, claimed by sources.
They also added that the stakes in the hands of Alfa have been valued at around $2.2 billion so Alfa wants to sell the stakes for around $2.7 billion ahead of the announcement of the court ruling.
Çukurova Group inked a loan deal in the amount of $1.6 billion with Ziraat Bank in 2014 in order to receive its pledged indirect share of Turkcell from the Alfa Group.
Sources close to Ziraat Bank have not made any comment about any future steps by the lender regarding the Turkcell stakes, although they underlined financial problems faced by Genel Energy, which is owned by Çukurova and operates in the northern Iraq.
“If a stake acquisition will be the case, Çukurova Group will need to find another strong loan provider, like Ziraat. If such a big volume of acquisition will be the case again, only Ziraat can do this. In this vein, Ziraat appears to be the most powerful candidate to buy the stakes,” said a source.
Meanwhile, shareholders of Turkcell failed to agree over the distribution of the dividend from the company’s 2015 profit at the general meeting on March 29.
Alfa, Çukurova and the Nordic Telia Sonera have been in dispute over the control of Turk