ECONOMY

Saudis in Turkey

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Saudi National Commercial Bank, the Gulf’s largest lender, has agreed to pay $1.08 billion for a 60 percent stake in privately owned Turkish Islamic lender Turkiye Finans, the two firms said yesterday. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has encouraged Gulf investment in Turkey, and the news comes just a few days before a general election. The deal also brings welcome foreign direct investment to offset a large current account deficit. The deal values the whole company at $1.8 billion, which compares with a $2.02 billion market value for its rival Bank Asya, which is around the same size by assets. But it implied a price-to-book ratio of 5.8, the highest ever seen in Turkey, the companies said. One analyst, who calculated the price to first-quarter book value at 4.9, said that compared to Bank Asya’s multiple of 3.85 times and newly listed Islamic lender Albaraka Turk with 2.9. Islamic banks, which do not charge or pay interest, in line with Islamic law, are growing fast in European Union-applicant Turkey, and shares in Bank Asya have more than doubled since their listing in May last year. Turkiye Finans had assets of 4.5 billion lira as at the end of the first quarter, according to data from the Participation (Islamic) Banks Association. The four banks making up the sector saw total assets grow 38 percent last year and net profit rise 56 percent. The owners of Turkiye Finans, industrial groups Ulker and Boydak, had said they were looking for a strategic partner to take a 50 percent stake in the bank, and hired HSBC to find a deal. The two firms will retain a 20 percent stake each, they said yesterday. NCB is the largest bank in the Gulf by assets, but is set to be overtaken by a planned merger of Emirates Bank International and National Bank of Dubai. The deal would be completed by the end of the year, and the price could be revised up by $120-130 million depending on 2007 profit figures, Turkiye Finans Chairman Mustafa Boydak said.