ECONOMY

NovaBank acquires failed Turkish financial institution Sitebank

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s banking watchdog announced yesterday that an agreement had been signed to transfer the shares of seized bank Sitebank to Greece-based NovaBank as it works to meet key IMF-backed economic reforms. Turkey has promised the International Monetary Fund it will sell or shut down an original 19 troubled banks taken under state control, many of them during the recent financial turmoil. The watchdog said the agreement was signed on January 11 and it had approved the transfer of the bank’s shares on January 16. It did not say how much NovaBank, majority owned by Portugal’s Banco Comercial Portugues, would pay for Sitebank. The Portuguese bank recently bought 43 percent of Poland’s BIG Bank Gdanski as part of its expansion program. Sitebank is a small bank with 13 branches, which was taken into receivership in July 2001. British bank HSBC acquired another failed bank, Demirbank, last year paying $350 million for what had been Turkey’s ninth-largest bank by assets before it was taken into receivership in December 2000. The state still holds Turk Ticaret Bankasi (Turkbank), Bayindirbank, EGS Bank and Milli Aydin Bankasi (Tarisbank) under receivership. Turkey recently launched tenders for deposits of several failed banks it holds under receivership in an effort to overhaul the sector. It also moved to sell more than 100 branches of seized banks to local buyers. The Turkish Parliament has passed an IMF-backed reform foreseeing treasury capital injection of up to $4 billion into the banking system as part of that rehabilitation drive. The bill is awaiting presidential approval. Ankara has already issued billions of dollars in debt to rehabilitate state banks and private banks it seized. The lira’s depreciation by some 50 percent since the crisis struck pummeled banks’ bottom lines, many of whom saw the foreign currency-denominated debt they held weigh heavy on their accounts. The banking watchdog had announced that losses at banks it held under receivership totaled 8,560 trillion lira (some $5.7 billion) as of November 30. The watchdog said the total losses at Turkish banks operating outside of state receivership narrowed to $3.3 billion in the third quarter of the year from $3.9 billion at the end of the second quarter. Turkey closed seized Kentbank and Etibank in December and transferred some of their unsold assets and liabilities to another seized bank, Toprakbank. Turkey had said it would merge the unsold assets and liabilities of seized bank EGS Bank with Bayindirbank by January 18. The watchdog has yet to announce that action is complete.