World Bank’s IFC to lend up to $400 mln to Turkish firms

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – The World Bank’s private sector lending arm said yesterday it was looking to focus more on infrastructure, health and technology projects in Turkey as the country moves toward European Union membership. The International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) new executive vice president, Lars Thunell, told a news conference it would lend up to $400 million to Turkish companies this year to foster development in strategic sectors. Turkey is the IFC’s third-largest country portfolio with investments of $2.8 billion in the 40 years it has been active in the country. It is now looking to move beyond traditional sectors to stimulate the flow of foreign investment. «As the government privatization program gains momentum, IFC will be placing greater emphasis on the broader infrastructure sector including electricity, ports and logistics,» said Thunell. Turkey’s long-ailing privatization program, backed by the International Monetary Fund under a $10 billion loan accord, surged in 2005 with the sales of telecoms, oil and steel firms. Thunell said the IFC signed a $120 million loan yesterday to the country’s third-largest mobile phone operator, Avea. The deal involves a one-year bridging loan for a longer-term loan up to 12 years, said Shahbaz Mavaddat, the IFC’s acting director for Southern Europe and Central Asia. «It is meant to help their expansion plans. As we know the telecoms sector has become very competitive and they need to do investments to maintain their competitive positions,» he told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference. The IFC said it also signed this week a $40 million loan with the Acibadem health services group for an expansion project including the construction of two new hospitals.