Turkish banks target Greek peers

Turkish banks are in advanced talks regarding the acquisition of a majority stake in two small-to-medium-sized Greek peers, an adviser to the possible deal said yesterday. Erol User, CEO and chairman of Istanbul-based investment bank User Corporation, told Kathimerini English Edition yesterday that Turkish investors are negotiating to buy into a 300-branch local lender and a second Greek bank which numbers some 20 branches. «There is an intention for business to take place,» said User, who is advising the Greek lenders. «Greece is a good ally for us [in steps] toward the EU.» Due diligence is expected to start in the coming weeks with final decisions likely to be made in the next six months, «maybe earlier,» according to User. One of the two Greek lenders also has a presence in the Balkans, he added, but declined to provide any further information. Talk on business deals taking place across the Aegean has picked up after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Athens last month with a delegation consisting of hundreds of Turkish businessmen. Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and his Turkish counterpart signed 21 agreements on issues ranging from immigration to energy and tourism during the visit in an effort to develop warmer ties and boost joint commercial interests. User, who was part of the delegation, said the top-level meetings created the momentum for cross-border deals, making it easier for Turkish banks to enter Greece. Last week, Can Akin Caglar, the chief executive of Turkey’s biggest state-run bank, TC Ziraat Bankasi, was cited as saying that the lender had been offered the opportunity to buy Greek banks during Erdogan’s visit. So far it has been Greek banks that have built commercial bridges with peers east of the border. In 2006, National Bank, Greece’s largest lender, purchased Turkey’s Finansbank, followed by EFG Eurobank which bought into Tekfenbank. [email protected]