Turk ‘no’ to Alpha Bank deal

Alpha Bank, whose purchase of a 50 percent stake in Alternatifbank was blocked by Turkey’s banking regulator, said yesterday it would decide its next move with partner Anadolu. On Tuesday, Turkey’s banking regulator blocked the sale of the stake in Alternatifbank to Alpha without providing a reason. Alpha Bank executives in Athens were not available for comment. Greece’s third-largest lender by assets said in a stock market filing it had been informed of the Turkish regulator’s decision not to approve the agreed transaction and «jointly with partner Anadolu would decide further action.» Alpha agreed at the end of last year to buy a 50 percent stake in small lender Alternatifbank and its subsidiary Alternatif Financial Leasing. The deal was valued then at -384 million. Under the deal, Alpha and Anadolu Group, which holds 94 percent of Alternatifbank, would set up a joint holding company that would ultimately own Alternatifbank, which has a network of 28 branches. The Anadolu Group is a conglomerate that also has interests in beverages, bottling, food, automotive manufacturing, consumer durables and packaging. Analysts in Athens said the impact would be minor given Alternatifbank’s small size. «The decision is surprising given the conclusion of similar (Turkish/Greek) deals in the past and recent comments by (Alpha Bank) management,» said analyst Constantine Manolopoulos at Marfin Analysis. «It can only be explained on political grounds; maybe they do not wish more Greek banks in Turkey. Alpha is not a small or weak bank to spark concerns on the future of Alternatifbank, so the reason cannot be economic,» he said. Other Greek banks that have ventured into Turkey include National Bank, the country’s biggest lender, which bought Finansbank, and EFG Eurobank, which bought Tekfenbank. Earlier in the month, when Alpha released its first-half earnings figures, it had said the completion of the Alternatifbank sale by year-end would «expand its footprint and franchise in Turkey,» enlarging its Southeast European network. (Reuters)