Dervis defends state seizure of private bank; is backed by IMF

ANKARA – Turkish Economy Minister Kemal Dervis said yesterday the state seizure of privately held Pamukbank was positive for the struggling economy, but investors dumped sister company shares, fearing the next move. The watchdog seized Turkey’s seventh-largest bank Pamukbank on Wednesday and took two seats on the board of larger sister bank Yapi Kredi as it finalized a bank recapitalization plan under a $16 billion IMF pact. «In the final analysis the decisions taken in the banking sector must be seen as contributing to the future of the economy,» Dervis said in a written statement. But despite positive comments from the IMF late on Wednesday, brokers said the outlook was uncertain for Yapi Kredi and other companies in the same group, particularly mobile phone operator Turkcell. Turkcell shares tumbled 17.8 percent yesterday after being suspended the previous day due to the seizure of Pamukbank, controlled by Turkcell’s parent company Cukurova Holding. Shares in Yapi Kredi, one of Turkey’s top four banks, remained suspended amid uncertainty over how the seizure of Pamukbank by the state banking watchdog will affect its future. The watchdog removed the head of Cukurova Holding from the Yapi Kredi board, dealing a blow to one of Turkey’s leading industrialists. Yapi Kredi General Manager Naci Sigin said yesterday the bank would continue operating as planned, and insisted it was wrong to say the state had taken control of Yapi Kredi. Sigin told reporters he hoped the issue of shareholding rights in Yapi Kredi would be resolved soon. But brokers said there was great uncertainty over the equity holdings of the group, including Yapi Kredi and Turkcell, which are two of the market’s most liquid shares, given the need to deal with a $2 billion capital shortfall at Pamukbank. «The market wonders what the fund’s strategy will be,» said Gonca Yagci, head of international sales in Koc Investment. «The near-term picture is that the uncertainty on Turkcell is going to be major,» said Tolga Atac, director in global economics at Lehman Brothers. The US Treasury Department and the International Monetary Fund praised Turkish regulators late on Wednesday for seizing Pamukbank, saying it demonstrated the commitment of Turkish authorities to implement an IMF-backed program. «Weak banks have now been eliminated from the system and the capital needs of the remaining banks have been identified,» the IMF said, adding that it would meet later this month to discuss payment of the latest $1.1 billion tranche of loans. Marco Annunziata, analyst at Deutsche Bank, said the takeover of Pamukbank was very positive since it opened the way for the IMF loan payment and moreover left the banking sector in a stronger position than if Yapi Kredi and Pamukbank had merged. «The move represents in our view an impressive show of political determination and commitment to the economic program,» Annunziata said in a research note. «Such a move would not have been possible without strong political support.» Turkcell, which is 37.5-percent owned by Finland’s Sonera, said on Wednesday that it did not expect any impact on its operations from the Pamukbank seizure. However, its shares tumbled when they reopened yesterday, ending down nearly 18 percent at 6,000 lira, dragging down the main index 2 percent to its lowest close since October 19.