ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s High Board of Privatization has approved the sale of a 46.12 percent stake in the country’s biggest steelmaker, Erdemir, to the army pension fund OYAK, the Official Gazette said yesterday. OYAK made the highest bid of $2.77 billion in an auction in October, trumping international steel giants, such as Arcelor and Mittal Steel. The tendering marked a further step forward for Turkey’s International Monetary Fund-backed privatization program which has already been boosted by this year’s tenders for Turk Telekom and oil refiner Tupras. The buyer now has 45 days to provide the finances and complete the purchase, according to the tender terms. If OYAK fails to do that, the third-highest bidder – a consortium led by Russia’s NLMK which bid $2.72 billion – will then have the right to buy the Erdemir stake. The second-highest bidder, a joint venture grouping local industrialists, was found to have violated anti-trust rules. The buyer of the stake will be obliged to buy a further 3.17 percent stake in Erdemir held by Turkiye Kalkinma Bankasi, which closed 16.49 percent up at 10.95 lira. Currently, 41.17 percent of Erdemir’s shares are publicly traded. OYAK on Monday denied weekend press reports that it was planning to sell to Arcelor almost half of its stake in a company being set up to buy the Erdemir stake. «OYAK is continuing all of its negotiations in such an important matter with great sensitivity and will soon announce to the public all related matters about Erdemir,» it said. OYAK has investments in the automotive, cement, financial and service sectors. Among its most high-profile investments is an automotive joint venture with French carmaker Renault.