State firm Petkim sold to the Uzans

ANKARA (AFP) – Turkey’s privatization board announced yesterday that it had approved the sale of an 88.86 percent stake in state-run petrochemicals firm Petkim to a company controlled by a controversial business family for $605 million. Standard Kimya, owned by the controversial Uzan family, had made the best bid for Petkim in a televised auction earlier this month, beating three other bidders. The sell-off had led to some controversy with newspapers claiming that the company, whose market value had been estimated at $1 billion, was going for below its value. Even Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had expressed unhappiness with the bid, which he said was much lower than the company’s value. But the privatization board said in a written statement carried by the Anatolia news agency that it had OK’d the sell-off and had given Standard Kimya 30 days to fulfill its obligations. «The auction will be annulled if Standard Kimya fails to make the advance payment or hand in the required letter of guarantee or sign the sale contract or fulfill its other obligations during that time,» the statement read. Privatization plays an important part in Turkey’s economic recovery drive backed by a multibillion-dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund. The government is hoping its ambitious program will rake in at least $4 billion this year. The Uzan family has been taken to court by US mobile phone giant Motorola on charges that their mobile phone operator Telsim defrauded it of more than $2 billion. Telsim denies the charges. One of the family’s scions, Cem Uzan, is a rising political star whose Youth Party won nearly 10 percent of the vote in general elections last November, and only just failed to win any parliamentary seats. He was taken to court by Erdogan last week for slander after he strongly criticized the prime minister at a political rally over a government decision to reclaim control of two power utilities owned by his family.

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