ECONOMY

Turk Telekom sale of majority stake is finalized at last

ANKARA (Reuters) – The group of companies buying a majority stake in fixed-line telecoms operator Turk Telekom signed a deal yesterday for the transfer of the shares, finalizing Turkey’s biggest privatization. A group led by Saudi Oger Telecom and including Telecom Italia won the tender for a 55 percent stake in the company in July with a bid of $6.55 billion. The deal was signed by Saudi Oger Senior Vice President Mohammed Hariri, Turkish Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan and Turk Telekom General Manager Mehmet Ekinalan in the Turkish capital Ankara. «We do not see this success as a mere acquisition but rather as a long-term investment, not only in the future of Turk Telekom but also in Turkey,» Hariri said. The sale of Turk Telekom’s controlling stake is a key element of Turkey’s IMF-backed privatization program, which has been dogged in the past by legal challenges and unsatisfactory bid prices. Economists hailed the completion of the sale, saying it would boost Turkey’s image as a place to do business and help lure more foreign investment. «This is a major breakthrough and very supportive of Eurobonds and the lira currency,» said Simon Quijano-Evans of Bank Austria Creditanstalt. «We continue to see an upgrade from one of the ratings agencies this year,» he added. An official from Saudi Oger Telecom told Reuters the company had paid a first installment worth $1.31 billion, or 20 percent of the price, to the Turkish Treasury.