Turkey to speed up privatizations in 2008, minister says

ISTANBUL – Turkey will speed up its privatization program in 2008 with sales of publicly owned shares in Halkbank, Turk Telekom and other companies, Economy Minister Mehmet Simsek was quoted yesterday as saying. Turkey has a broad privatization program backed by its major lender, the International Monetary Fund, and big sales in recent years have contributed to record foreign direct investment (FDI). But the government will fall short of a $25 billion FDI target in 2007, and the treasury said late last year that FDI for the first 10 months of the year had only reached $16.14 billion. «There are privatizations of Halkbank, of (cigarette company) Tekel, energy production and distribution companies, as well as… highways and bridges for the 2008-2009 period. We can expect some acceleration,» Simsek told the Milliyet newspaper in an interview. Ankara sold off 25 percent of its stake in Halkbank early in 2007 and the government had been expected to sell off its remaining 75 percent stake in the bank. Turkey has also said it will sell off a 15 percent treasury-owned stake in landline operator Turk Telekom in 2008. In addition, it is preparing to sell its 20 regional electricity distribution grids. Simsek said the government would not change its macroeconomic policy structure, even though Turkey is unlikely to have reached its 5 percent growth target in 2007 and inflation is expected to have been twice the official target of 4 percent. «We are not going to panic and change everything because some (macroecenomic data) came in weak in the third quarter. We are looking for a fact-based and long-term solution to Turkey’s structural problems,» said Simsek. Turkey’s annual growth slowed to 2 percent in the third quarter of 2007, data showed in early December.