Foreign banks to bid for a key stake in Turkey’s Denizbank

ISTANBUL – Banks Intesa, Societe Generale, Standard Chartered and Dexia are interested in Turkey’s Denizbank, whose owners want to sell a majority stake, sources close to the deal said. Denizbank’s owner Zorlu, which holds 75 percent of the firm, had only said before it was looking for partnership and acquisition opportunities, leaving its intentions unclear. But the sources told Reuters the owners hope to sell a majority stake, or even their entire stake in the bank, which has a market capitalization of $2.8 billion (2.2 billion euros). Binding offers are expected at the end of May, with a deal to be completed at the end of June at the earliest, the sources said. Turkey’s banking sector has been closely followed by foreign buyers and over the last year Fortis, General Electric and the National Bank of Greece have bought into the market, at increasingly high premiums. «Four banks are still in the information-gathering phase with Denizbank. They have not yet entered the pricing phase. A while ago non-binding offers were made but until the end of May binding offers are not expected,» one source said. Another source named the four banks. Societe General, Standard Chartered and Dexia declined to comment and no one was available at Intesa. «We know Zorlu is trying to sell a majority stake,» the first source added. Denizbank shares have rise 33 percent this year to Thursday’s close, against a 7 percent rise on Turkey’s banking index and an 11 percent rise on Istanbul’s main share index. It is one of several banks likely to come up for sale this year, along with much smaller Sekerbank and state-owned Halkbank. Two Greek banks and Saudi Oger – the company that bought about half of former monopoly Turk Telekom last year – are in talks to buy Turkey’s Tekfenbank and a deal for the entire bank could be worth $300 million (238 million euros), one of the sources said. Tekfenbank has said talks have been held, but has given no names. Also on the list of possible deals this year is Turkey’s second-largest bank Akbank, a unit of Sabanci Holding, which has hired advisors to look for acquisition or other partnership opportunities, but its plans are not clear. Sekerbank, with a market capitalization of $760 million (603 million euros), has said it is aiming for a sale after a deal to sell half the bank to Dutch financial cooperative Rabobank collapsed. One source said two investors, one Gulf-based, were interested. Other foreigners in Turkey’s banking market include Italy’s Unicredito, which controls Yapi Kredi with conglomerate Koc Holding and BNP Paribas.