Turkey set for media assets sale

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey will set the time frame and method next week for the sale of some of the country’s leading media assets, including a top-selling newspaper and broadcaster, the head of the state receivership said yesterday. «We will be able to determine the calendar next week. Before the year ends, we think we will be able to bring the sale to an end,» Ahmet Erturk, head of the Savings and Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF), told Reuters in an interview. The sale of the two media groups, whose assets include mass-circulation newspaper Sabah and top-rated entertainment broadcaster ATV, are expected to bring in between $1.25 billion and $1.5 billion, Erturk said. A total of 73 assets were seized by TMSF from Ciner Group, a large Turkish conglomerate, after secret agreements between the companies’ previous owner Bilgin and Ciner came to light. Bilgin’s assets were taken over by the TMSF after its Etibank collapsed. Erturk said the fund would also decide whether to go for a cherry-picked asset sale in at least two packages of companies or stake sales. «We are assessing the values of the companies and depending on the signals and preferences from the potential buyers, we will determine the method of selling next week,» he said. The sale is expected to shake up a media sector dominated by family-run Dogan Yayin Holding, which has 40 percent of Turkey’s advertising market. Analysts have said an auction would likely bring strong interest from abroad as the advertising market in the European Union candidate country is growing fast, and the Ciner assets are well placed in terms of market share. «We have interest from strategic and financial investors from the US, Eastern Europe and Gulf, and some local investors,» Erturk said. Foreign interest, however, may be limited due to a law restricting foreign ownership of broadcasters to 25 percent, unless it is repealed by the Justice and Development Party government, which has taken pro-business measures and attracted foreign investment. «Foreign investors should be very careful as far as this law is considered,» Erturk said. «The results of the tender will have to be approved by the broadcasting regulator RTUK and the competition board.» Revenues from the sale must cover a $900 million debt owed to TMSF by Bilgin group. Erturk said Turgay Ciner, head of the Cinergroup, would also receive some of the companies and funds he initially invested in the companies. «We are very close to striking an agreement,» he said.