ECONOMY

Turk Telekom close to deal on Telsim’s debt

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turk Telekom is close to an agreement on millions of dollars in debt owed to it by local GSM operator Telsim, the general manager of the state landline company said yesterday. Mehmet Ekinalan also said the result of Turk Telekom’s privatization tender should be clear two or three months after the deadline for bids on May 31. «We have almost reached an agreement on Telsim’s debts to Turk Telekom,» Ekinalan told a news conference, adding that the deal would cover more than 600 trillion (old) lira ($440 million) in debts recorded before September 2003. Turkey is offering a 55 percent stake in the fixed-line operator, a virtual monopoly that analysts say could be worth several billion dollars in Turkey’s newly liberalized market. The sale is central to the government’s IMF-backed privatization strategy, which has suffered numerous setbacks. «I believe the (tender) process will be completed within two or three months following May 31… but making transfer agreements may take a few months,» Ekinalan said. He brushed off the withdrawal last week of Spain’s Telefonica from the privatization process, and the earlier pullout of Belgium’s Belgacom.