Turkish PM’s adviser contradicts deputy PM on acquisition of pro-Gülen lender
ISTANBULPrime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s economic adviser Yiğit Bulut said the state-owned Ziraat Bank has no plans to buy Islamic lender Bank Asya that Erdoğan knows of, contradicting Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, who confirmed the talks earlier the same day.
“There is no will, attempt or questioning regarding the acquisition of Bank Asya by the state within our dear prime minister’s knowledge,” Bulut said in the late hours of Aug. 6.
Just hours before Bulut’s denial of the sale negotiations, Babacan, the top government figure in charge of economy, had said state-owned Ziraat Bank is interested in buying Bank Asya, whose owners are known to have close ties with Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, as part of the government’s plans to enter the Islamic finance sector.
“Ziraat Bank has begun talks with Bank Asya. These negotiations haven’t yet been finalized, but it would be an outcome we desire. If Ziraat Bank acquires Bank Asya, the state will have a participation bank,” Babacan said, during a live interview with broadcaster Kanal 24.
Bulut claimed Babacan’s words were used by some circles to increase Bank Asya’s value, as the lender’s shares closed Aug. 6 with an 8.26 percent premium at 1.31 Turkish Liras after Babacan’s remarks.
The contradiction between the two senior economy figures pushed Bank Asya shares lower in the opening on Aug. 7.
The Islamic lender’s shares began the trading day more than 6 percent down, quickly tumbling to as low as 1.22 liras.
“The dear minister’s words were speculated and a speculation erupted afterward. Bank Asya’s value rose by 10 percent, or 100 million in term of the lira,” he claimed.
He continued with calling Turkey’s Capital Markets Board (SPK) for duty. “The ones that speculated and put a premium on Bank Asya should be subject to the SPK’s audit. The SPK should control who bought these shares yesterday, who buys them today and who sells these shares today,” he said.
Ziraat is one of the three state-owned banks planning to open up a participation bank that will offer interest-free financial services.
Bank Asya’s founders include Gülen sympathizers, a former ally of Erdoğan who has become his bitter rival. State-owned companies and institutional depositors loyal to Erdoğan withdrew 4 billion liras ($1.8 billion), some 20 percent of the bank’s total deposits, according to Turkish media reports earlier this year.
Bulut, the former news anchor and editor-in-chief of private news broadcaster 24 TV, was appointed chief adviser to Erdoğan in July 2013. He made worldwide headlines during the Gezi Park protests over the summer by claiming foreign powers were attempting to “kill Erdoğan with telekinesis.”