Foreigners welcome

ANKARA (Reuters) – The Turkish government submitted a draft law to Parliament yesterday that would let foreign investors take a controlling stake in Turkish telecom firms. The bill would allow foreign investors to bid for a 51 percent stake in state phone company Turk Telekom when it is put up for sale after July 15. It would also let them to buy more than 49 percent of seized companies taken under the wing of Turkey’s Savings and Deposits Insurance Fund, including cell phone operator Telsim. Telsim, Turkey’s second-largest mobile network and part of the Uzan group, was taken over in February by banking regulators to recoup debts owed by the Uzan family’s failed Imar Bank. There has been speculation that Italian operator Telecom Italia Mobile might be interested in buying Telsim, although the company has denied this. The Turk Telekom sell-off is central to Turkey’s faltering privatization program under a $19 billion loan accord with the International Monetary Fund. The bill would introduce a system of public bidding for a stake in the fixed-line provider, rather than closed bids. It would also create a new firm, Turksat Satellite Information Co, to handle communications considered to be of strategic importance for Turkey’s national security.

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