Koc eyes Yapi Kredi stake

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish conglomerate Koc Holding said yesterday that one of its units was planning to start talks on buying a major stake in Yapi Kredi Bank owned by the Cukurova Group. Analysts said the announcement did not come as a surprise, but it boosted the companies’ shares on hopes that progress can be made on a deal ahead of an end-January deadline. Under an accord reached with banking authorities after its Pamukbank unit went into receivership in 2002, Cukurova is to sell up to 39.5 percent of Yapi Kredi. A 12.9 percent Yapi Kredi stake held by the state banking fund TMSF is also to be sold. «Our Koc Finansal Hizmetleri unit plans to start talks on buying the shares in Yapi Kredi Bankasi owned by the Cukurova Group,» Koc said in a statement to the Istanbul Stock Exchange. Some 42 percent of Yapi Kredi is traded in Istanbul. Turkey has chosen JP Morgan to advise it on the sale of the controlling stake in Yapi Kredi, the country’s fourth-biggest bank with a market capitalization of more than $2.2 billion, according to Reuters data. Under Cukurova’s deal with banking authorities in January 2003, the group must cut its total 45 percent stake in Yapi Kredi to below 10 percent by the end of this month. «It was known that Koc Group was interested in the sale of Yapi Kredi, hence it seems that we are no further forward… It is too early to say what sort of an outcome there will be,» said Ata Invest research director Nergis Kasabali. Koc Finansal Hizmetleri is the umbrella for Koc Group’s financial activities, including Kocbank. Unicredito Italiano SpA bought a 50 percent stake in the company in 2002. If the sale of Yapi Kredi is not completed this month, Cukurova and the TMSF fund will then be jointly responsible for executing the sale until the end of October. Beyond that date, the TMSF will be solely responsible for the sale. Markets are also waiting to learn the fate of Yapi Kredi’s 13.1 percent stake in Turkey’s largest mobile phone company Turkcell. Cukurova, which owns a 42.6 percent stake in Turkcell, has an option to buy the 13.1 percent stake by the end of this month. Top Nordic telecoms operator TeliaSonera, which has a 37 percent stake in Turkcell, is also looking at buying the 13.1 percent stake. Turkcell shares were up 4.79 percent at 9.85 new lira.