ECONOMY

Turkey’s IPO record with telecom sale

Turkey’s sale of shares in phone company Turk Telekomunikasyon AS may set a country record for an initial public offering, as global market turbulence fails to deter investors, the government’s asset sales chief said. The IPO for 15 percent of Telekom, scheduled for May, will probably surpass the $1.9 billion that Turkey raised by selling a stake in lender Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS last year, Metin Kilci, head of the Privatization Administration, said in an interview in Ankara today. Selling state businesses will help Turkey reduce debt and attract the foreign investment needed to finance a current account gap that’s widening as energy prices rise. The drying up of credit markets worldwide won’t stop the government from finding buyers for Telekom and other companies up for sale including state cigarette maker Tekel and the national lottery, Kilci said. «We’re still seeing interest in Turkey,» Kilci said. «Credit markets aren’t as comfortable as before, and we can’t say global conditions won’t affect us, but we see no reason to slow or stop privatizations. There’s no need for a plan B.» The government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sold about $22 billion worth of state assets since 2003, more than twice as much as all its predecessors put together. The biggest transaction was the sale of 55 percent of Telekom to Saudi Oger Ltd for $6.6 billion in 2005. Higher price At that valuation, the 15 percent stake that the government is selling this year would raise $1.8 billion. Kilci said it is now worth more, citing growth in Telekom’s cellular and high-speed Internet businesses as well as Turkey’s economic expansion since 2005, which has lifted asset values. «It’s not the same Telekom we sold in 2005, there are lots of reasons for its value to have risen,» he said. «How much it has risen, we’ll see in the IPO.» The asset sales agency expects to get several offers for Tekel by the February 18 deadline, and private equity firms may be among the potential buyers, Kilci said without giving details. The sale of the national lottery may take place earlier than the previously announced target date of May, he said. The lottery has annual revenue of about $700 million, and the government will auction a license to run it for a period of between seven and 10 years, he said. The government is also due to invite bids for the right to operate toll-roads and two bridges over Istanbul’s Bosporus by May. The agency would prefer to sell those rights as a single package, and is waiting for approval of that plan by antitrust regulators, Kilci said.