Turkey banishes financing flops to privatise final power grids

By bne IntelliNews March 18, 2013

bne -

Extending its recent renewed success in selling off infrastructure, Turkey raised $3.46bn on March 15 as it sold its final four power grids. Previous auctions have broken down at this point as buyers failed to find the cash; this time around, if anyone, it's more likely that the seller could pull the deal.

Ankara announced that following several hours of bidding on the assets, it has now completed privatisation auctions for all of the country's power grids. All of distribution companies were previously sold in 2010, only for the buyers to back out after failing to secure funding for the deals. However, improved financing conditions have boosted Turkey's privatisation efforts recently, with the sales following closely in the wake of approval from Ankara for deals on another three grids, as well as a gas distributor.

Enerjisa, a joint venture between Turkey's Sabanci and Germany's E.ON bought two of the grids - Toroslar in the south of the country for $1.7bn and the Ayedas power grid, covering the Anatolian side of Istanbul, for $1.2bn. The company - in which E.ON bought its stake in late 2012 as part of its drive to concentrate on major emerging markets - already owns Baskent EDAS, which distributes power in Ankara, and now holds close to the 30% maximum share any individual company can hold in the Turkish power distribution sector, reports the Financial Times.

While the prices of the other two assets winners were far lower, the sales appear highly significant for other reasons. Set in the areas of the country affected most heavily by the ongoing peace process being pushed between Ankara and Kurdish insurgents, in contrast to the Enerjisa acquisitions, both assets attracted higher bids than two years ago. Turkerler Insaat will pay $118m for the Vangolu network in the east of the country, while the Iskaya-Dogu consortium will hand over $387m for the Dicle network in the southeast.

The auction comes in the wake of Turkish approval of the sale of the Ankara gas distribution company Baskent Gaz to Torunlar Gida for $1.2bn and the sale of three other regional power distributors - Bogazici EDAS, Akdeniz EDAS, Gediz EDAS and Aras EDAS - for a total of $3.9bn. Altogether, the recent distribution grid sales bring total privatisation revenues so far in 2013 to $8.49bn; more than the $7.46bn combined revenue of the whole of the past three years, the FT points out.

That low-ball number is due to the financing problems buyers have met during the crisis. Having wrecked several deals, the issue has proved an obstacle to Turkey's bid to sell off infrastructure in particular. However, with the economy looking more stable through 2012 following the risk of overheating the previous year, and Turkey's sovereign rating having been boosted to investment grade by Fitch, deals are now going through.

In fact, with increased use of Islamic financing also helping to offset heavy dependence on European banks, it is the government - previously desperate just to find someone to take infrastructure projects off its hands - that has started pulling deals, insisting that it can do better. Reportedly on the back of direct orders from Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey pulled a $5.7bn deal struck in December for a package of toll roads and a pair of Istanbul bridges across the Bosporus.

The PM's claim that the price was too low will now be tested by a planned IPO for the road assets. Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek had also said in late February that the country's Privatisation Administration was also re-evaluating Torunlar Gida's purchase of the Baskent gas grid, as Ankara's confidence grows.

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