ECONOMY

Turkey expects to see electricity firm sales

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey, which has delayed three power grid privatizations until after November elections, will press on with a broader sale of electricity firms when the infrastructure is ready, Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan said yesterday. The government announced the delay to planned grid sales on Tuesday but insisted its privatization program, backed by a $10 billion loan deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), would otherwise remain on track. Foreign investors had shown interest in three electricity grid tenders for which a January bid deadline had been set and Unakitan said authorities would give investors a time scale when technical work has advanced. «Whenever the infrastructure is ready in any region, not just in these three distribution areas but in all areas, the tenders will either continue or tenders will be opened,» Unakitan told reporters in parliament. The sale delay has unsettled financial markets amid concerns that it could harm the country’s ties with the IMF. Analysts said it showed the government is increasingly ready to put politics ahead of economic considerations as the polls approach. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week he did not want to carry out energy privatization for now because it could lead to rising power prices that would be blamed on his government. A total of 37 companies and joint ventures have applied for pre-qualification in tenders for the sale of the three grids which serve the capital Ankara, the Asian side of Istanbul and the area between the two cities. These include Italy’s Enel and Edison SpA, Spain’s Iberdrola, France’s Suez-Tractebel, AES of the United States and Germany’s E.ON. But officials, aware of the unease in financial markets and the IMF, have denied any plan to scrap the grid tenders, which attracted some of Europe’s biggest utilities.