ECONOMY

Saudis gain control of Turk Telekom

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish privatization authorities signed a contract with Saudi Oger Telecom yesterday for the sale of a 55 percent stake in fixed-line operator Turk Telekom. «We have completed one phase of Turkey’s biggest privatization and are heading toward the end (of the process). This sale is very important for Turkey, and I can even say it is a turning point,» Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan said. A venture led by Saudi Oger Telecom, which also includes Telecom Italia, won the tender in July, offering $6.55 billion for the 55 percent stake in Turk Telekom. Privatization procedures are expected to be finalized in October. The state Competition Board gave its approval in July for the sale of Turk Telekom, which is a central plank in the country’s IMF-backed privatization program. Turkey’s privatization process has faltered repeatedly, with other flagship sales facing legal challenges and limited investor interest. For the sale to be completed, the cabinet and the country’s top administrative court, the Danistay, must give their approval. Turk Telekom lost its monopoly status last year but still controls the domestic landline market. It is the world’s 13th largest telecoms operator, with 19 million subscribers.