Tekel decision ‘in days’

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s privatization tender commission is expected to make a ruling within a few days on whether to proceed with the sale of state-owned Tekel group’s tobacco division, a sell-off official said yesterday. The Privatization Administration (OIB) said last Wednesday Japan Tobacco made the highest bid of $1.15 billion, well short of market and government expectations and prompting speculation that the flagship sell-off would be canceled. Analysts had said Tekel’s sale could fetch up to $3 billion as the government seeks to raise revenues under tight budgetary restrictions agreed with the International Monetary Fund under a $16 billion loan accord. «The commission will meet and make a ruling. It will announce the result within a few days,» the OIB official told Reuters. British American Tobacco also participated in the tender for Tekel’s tobacco division, which has a 58 percent share of the Turkish cigarette market. US group Altria had been expected to make a bid for the division, but industry sources said it had pulled out of the tender because of competition issues. Altria, which owns Philip Morris and makes top brand Marlboro, already has a 28 percent share of the Turkish market. Japan Tobacco, the world’s number three, is third in the Turkish cigarette market with a 10 percent share.