Yıldız firm to finance Çukurova's Turkcell shares on 'strong assurance'
Vahap Munyar HÜRRİYET / ISTANBUL
Yıldız Holding Chairman Murat Ülker says Gözde Girşim is focused on solving Çukurova’s partnership row in Turkcell.Yıldız Holding Chairman Murat Ülker said his holding’s subsidiary Gözde Girişim will not lend the Çukurova Holding – a company gripped by financial constraints – its Turkcell shares unless it sees strong assurances.
Yıldız’s private equity company Gözde Girişim announced last week it is having structured conditional financing provision talks with the telecom sector, the reports that the firm will provide financing to Çukurova to help it retake its $1.6 billion shares in Turkey’s largest mobile operator Turkcell.
Speaking during a visit to Yıldız’s İzmir factory, Bizim Murtfak, Ülker said the talks to find a solution to the issue between Gözde and Turkcell have been going on for the past three months.
Within this framework, Gözde will invest some capital and provide the rest from foreign and local banks, he said.
“Our biggest guarantee will be the valid and solid assurance that we will get [the money back]. The banks wouldn’t have entered [into] business already if the assurance [of paying back the loan] was not solid,” Ülker said when asked what they would do if Çukurova failed to pay its debt back.
However, the businessman, who was named Turkey’s richest man by Forbes in February, insisted there are no partnership plans on the horizon.
“We don’t have partnership in our close agenda,” Ülker said, adding “Already, it’s not enough to just pay money and become a partner in Turkcell. It requires [Capital Markets] Board permission since it’s a licensed business.”
He insisted, “Our priority is to find a solution to Çukurova’s financing problem.” Çukurova and Altimo – the telecoms investment arm of Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa Group – have for seven years been for the control of Turkcell, choking decision-making at the company and preventing the dividend payments.
Altimo appropriated the 13.8 percent stake – a controlling position due to Turkcell’s complex ownership structure – when Çukurova defaulted on a $1.35 billion loan.
The British Privy Council ruled last July that Çukurova, owned by one of Turkey’s richest men Mehmet Emin Karamehmet, must pay around $1.6 billion – a sum which includes interest payments – to Altimo within 60 days if it wants to recover the stake.
The original deadline set by the U.K. court for Çukruova was in June; however, the deadline has been delayed another month to July 30.
Trust in Çukurova
Also regarding the postponement of the deadline, Ülker said the company was still working on the terms and timing of the deal.
When asked about Çukurova Holding’s poor record in partnership relations, the chairman said he believes in the good in people.
“Maybe there is a negative attitude or misdoing in its addresses as well. My principle is to look at ‘human beings as essentially good.’ The mistake should be separated from the person. When you put the mistake aside, the person is good in their essence,” he said.
Çukurova Holding is also facing separate debt problems with Turkey’s Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF), which seized 10 group companies belonging to Çukurova Holding on May 24.