ECONOMY

Turkish state firms’ debt up to 50 bln lira

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish state companies’ total debt stock jumped 17 percent in 2007 to 50.08 billion lira ($40.81 billion) from the previous year, Treasury data showed yesterday. Heavy government debt, liquid and heavily foreign owned markets and a large current account deficit have caused Turkish stocks to underperform emerging market counterparts this year. The state companies, including firms slated for privatization, had 42.71 billion lira debt in 2006. The rise in 2007 stemmed largely from an increase in bank loans extended to cash-hungry state pipeline company Botas. Hazelnut purchases by the state grain office TMO and unpaid energy bills also stoked the rise in debt. The data showed that while state companies’ domestic debt surged 21 percent to 45.043 billion lira in 2007, their external debt diminished 0.8 percent to 5.04 billion lira. State companies’ debt to the Treasury rose 27 percent to 2.275 billion lira last year. Turkey’s central government debt stock, which does not include the debt of state companies, stood at 336.6 billion lira at the end of January. Turkey has been trying to cut its high debt pile as part of an International Monetary Fund-backed economic program.