ISTANBUL – The sale of Turkey’s Finansbank at 3.6 times its book value to another Greek lender should not be regarded as a benchmark for other banking deals in Turkey, Ernst & Young’s head of institutional investment in Turkey said. National Bank of Greece agreed to pay 2.3 billion euros ($2.89 billion) for about half of Finansbank last month, a higher price than had been paid in previous Turkish banking deals. Other sales expected this year include Denizbank, Sekerbank, Tekfenbank and Oyakbank, while blue chip Akbank has said it is looking for partnership opportunities. While some analysts read the Finansbank deal as a sign prices in Turkey are going up, Can Deldag, head of institutional investment at Ernst & Young, disagrees, although he said there were many players trying to get into the Turkish market and few banks for sale. «Finansbank’s growth potential was very clear and it was very attractive… There were two buyers and they fought for it. Not every bank is the same,» he told Reuters in an interview. US giant Citigroup had been expected to buy the bank in the market, although it never confirmed it wanted to. Foreign investors have been pouring into Turkey, attracted by the start of European Union entry talks last year, an economy expected to grow 5 percent this year and a young and fast-growing population of around 70 million. Climbing capitalization Turkey’s main stock market capitalization climbed 59 percent in 2005, although the pace has slowed to a 10 percent rise so far this year, underperforming a 43 percent rise in Russian stocks. «With the other banks, if growth potential is seen and the buyer sees it as strategic these multiples could be paid. But if that is not seen, then there could be deals below those multiples. That doesn’t mean they will be sold cheap,» he said. Finansbank has more than 200 branches and operations in 10 countries and its net profit grew more than 80 percent last year. «The important thing is the growth potential. Every bank is different and to say after this there won’t be deals below this level isn’t very true,» he said. Mergers and acquisitions worth $30 billion were carried out in 2005 and Deldag said this year and next Ernst & Young expected deals worth a total of $20 billion. Contributing to that figure will also be smaller deals between Turkish firms, he said, such as the recent sale of telecoms assets by conglomerate Sabanci to rival group Koc Holding.