CONFUSED?

TURKEY’S BANKING REGULATOR MAKES CONTRASTIN­G STATEMENTS OVER OGER TELECOM’S CREDIT

Dünya Executive - - OVERVIEW -

Turkey’s banking regulator has assured creditors of Oger Telecom, which is the main shareholde­r in Turk Telekom, that a $4.75 billion syndicated loan will not go to default and they don’t have to re-classify it as “non-performing,” its head told Reuters on Nov. 16. The move will likely help Oger Telecom avoid costly write-downs. “We told banks not to classify the debt as nonperform­ing. Either the Treasury will acquire it or it will sell it to Saudi Telecom or others. The loan will not go into default,” Banking Regulatory and Supervisio­n Agency (BDDK) head Mehmet Ali Akben said on the sidelines of an event in Istanbul. The BDDK’s request marks an attempt to stem the fallout from Dubai-based Oger’s Telecom’s widening debt problem. Oger, which owns 55% of fixed-line operator Türk Telekom and is owned by the family of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, has struggled to repay the loan as a tumbling lira currency has driven up the cost of servicing its debt. Last month, Reuters reported that Oger missed a third payment due on the loan. However, four hours after Akben’s statement he denied making it, and said: “We have no request related to OTAS. There is no firm that is bankrupted.” Turk Telekom, the main actor in Turkey’s telecommun­ications sector, was privatized in 2005, as Ojer Telecommun­ications (Otas) – a subsidiary of Oger Telecom, acquired a controllin­g 55% stake. Saudi Telecom Company (STC) owns 35% of Oger, making it an indirect shareholde­r in Turk Telekom. The Turkish government owns nearly 30% of Turk Telekom. Creditors include Turkey’s Akbank and Garanti as well as Is Bank, Turkey’s largest listed lender. Reuters reported last month that Turkey’s Treasury opted not to a grant a request from STC to extend a deadline in the debt talks. It also reported in August that STC was set to buy Oger’s 55% holding in Turk Telekom. Sources have previously said the government could itself acquire the Oger stake if talks on STC’s bid fall through.

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