Akbank sees big rate cut, expects consolidation in Turkish banking industry

LONDON (Reuters) – Turkish real interest rates could fall to 7 percent in 2008, boosting consumer borrowing, and Turkey’s Akbank will also look at expanding into Europe, a managing director told Reuters yesterday. Real interest rates, which take into account inflation, could fall to 7 percent from 10 percent by the end of 2008, Akbank Director Suzan Sabanci Dincer told Reuters during a trip to London to meet investors. Dincer is from the Sabanci family, which partially owns Akbank, Turkey’s largest bank by market capitalization, through Sabanci Holding. Citigroup has a 20 percent stake in Akbank. Akbank will consider buying Turkish banks or financial institutions that add 3-5 percent to its market share, which stood at 13.5 percent of assets in 2007, Dincer said. The bank is targeting a 20 percent market share in 2011, she added. «We believe in the coming year there will be a second phase of consolidation in Turkey. There might be some of the smaller private banks available on the market because their margins are coming down tremendously.» That is because they are struggling to compete with Turkey’s largest banks, particularly those supported by the government, Dincer said. The number of banks fell from 81 to 46 in the first phase of consolidation, after Turkey’s financial crisis in 2001/2002. Now just eight banks control 80 percent of the market, she said.