Qatar National Bank joins queue for Turkish assets

By bne IntelliNews December 14, 2012

bne -

Qatar National Bank (QNB) is considering joining the rush into the Turkish banking sector, and is on the lookout to purchase a controlling stake in one of the country's top 10 lenders, the Arabic bank's CEO said on December 13.

"We are looking at a majority stake in a top 10 Turkish bank as a means to add value," Ramzi Mari said during a conference call, according to Reuters, adding that QNB - the Middle East's biggest lender by assets - will not apply for its own licence in Turkey.

"We're not interested in a minority stake in Turkey," Mari said in the call that announced the acquisition of a majority stake in Societe Generale's Egyptian NSGB unit, reports Dow Jones. "Considering the competitiveness of the Turkish market, we would have to go for one of the top 10 banks."

The queue forming to enter the Turkish market features all colours of the banking rainbow, as lenders seek out rare vibrant growth. Encouraged by Turkey's debut Sukuk sovereign earlier this year, Middle Eastern banks are keen. The National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD), the largest lender in the United Arab Emirates, said earlier this week that it may look to enter, while Kuwaiti group Burgan Bank on April bought Greek bank EFG Eurobank, which has a subsidiary there.

Meanwhile, struggling Spanish and Italian banks have entered or are knocking on the door of Turkey. Japanese lenders are doing likewise, following a wave of corporate compatriots arriving in the country. QNB lost out on a deal for Denizbank in the summer to Russian state giant Sberbank, which is rolling out a strategy to spread westwards through CEE. The Turkish banking regulator suggested last month that there is space for up to 60 banks in the country - and that 49 of those berths are already taken.

That leaves owners who are looking to unload a stake in a advantageous position. Citibank announced last week that talks are already well underway regarding its retail banking unit in the country, as part of a global divestment drive it unveiled. The US giant also owns a stake in Akbank. Bankers are also awaiting the announcement of a mandate for the sale of National Bank of Greece's Turkish arm Finansbank.

Meanwhile, the government is expected to privatize a further stake in Halkbank in the coming years after raising $2.5bn from selling 24% last month. It is also set to release a stake in Ziraat Bankasi, although it has pledged that nothing is on the agenda in the medium term.

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