More foreigners set eye on Turkish banks

More foreigners set eye on Turkish banks

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
More foreigners set eye on Turkish banks

This file photo shows a view of Istanbul’s Levent, where many banks’ headquarters are located in. Turkish bank receive increasing interest from foreigners. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

The Turkish banking sector is attracting more and more international players as the country’s sector regulator, the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK), has approved The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ. Local Anadolu Endüstri Holding has said in a filing to the Istanbul Stock Exchange (İMKB) that it has started talks with the Commercial Bank of Qatar to sell its controlling shares in Alternatifbank.

Yesterday’s developments followed the opening of the first branch of Odeabank, the Turkish unit of the Lebanon-based Bank Audi, in Istanbul. Bank Audi became the first new bank to receive BDDK authorization after nearly 14 years as the regulator has been acting cautiously since the crisis in 2002, which shook many lenders.

Analysts have told Anatolia news agency that the Commercial Bank of Qatar’s approach to Alterantif was a sign of high Gulf interest in Turkish lenders, which might encourage other investors.

The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ will be founded with $300 million in capital, the same amount as Bank Audi, according to the decision published in the Official Gazette yesterday.

It is expected to focus on growing Japanese businesses in Turkey, where 139 Japanese firms are active. Shoji Nakano, the regional CEO of the lender projected in an interview in July that this would triple in the next seven years.

Anadolu owns several businesses including the country’s largest beer brewery.

QNB interest

Another Qatari lender, Qatar National Bank (QNB), which is buying Societe Generale’s Egyptian unit for $2 billion as part of a regional expansion strategy, now has control of a top Turkish bank in its sights, Reuters recently reported. “We are looking at a majority stake in a top-10 Turkish bank as a means to add value,” Reuters quoted chief financial officer Ramzi Mari as saying in a conference call on Dec. 13, adding that QNB would not apply for its own license in Turkey.

QNB, which lost out to Russian group Sberbank in the bidding for Turkish lender Denizbank earlier this year, is also interested in expanding in Morocco and Saudi Arabia, where it plans to open branches going forward, Mari said.

Bloomberg news agency quoted analysts on its website as saying that QNB might be interested in Finansbank, the National Bank of Greece’s Turkish arm, but the Greek lender is saying that it was in no rush to sell.

The BDDK authorized Kuwait’s Burgan Bank to buy a 99.26 percent stake in Eurobank Tekfen earlier this month. In April, Greek bank EFG Eurobank sold its Turkish arm to Burgan in a $355 million deal.
UniCredit’s Bank Austria, emerging as Europe’s biggest lender, said last month that it would maintain its leading position in the Central and Eastern European (CEE) region through investments in the strategic markets of the Czech Republic, Turkey and Russia. Unicredit already owns shares in Turkey’s Yapı Kredi Bank with local Koç Group.

The BDDK may allow the number of banks in Turkey to increase to 60 from the current 49, its president said last month. The country’s top banks include Garanti Bank – the largest bank by market value, 25 percent-owned by Spanish company BBVA, and Akbank – partly owned by U.S. group Citigroup.