Turkey finally attracts bids for Ankara gas grid

By bne IntelliNews April 17, 2012

Justin Vela in Istanbul -

Turkey has received four bids for an 80% stake in gas distributor Baskentgaz, according to announcement on April 16. That should cheer up Turkey's privatization agency, which has been struggling to push through the country's grand scheme to offload state assets.

The sale of the Baskentgaz stake has been canceled twice and extended three times. The last time was at the end of January, when the deadline for submitting offers was pushed to April 16 at the request of bidding companies, which wanted more time to evaluate the conditions of the contract.

The bidders are Akfen Holding; a consortium of Aygaz and Fernas; STFA Yatirim Holding; and a consortium of Kolin, Cengiz and Limak, the statement from the Turkish Privatization Administration (OIB) said. Baskentgaz is Turkey's sole holder of the natural gas distribution license in the Ankara region until 2037. The capital is the second largest city in the country with a population of 4.8m.

According to Erste, the bidding process will be completed in April and the share transfer is expected to be completed before the end of the year. Meanwhile, the bank's analysts suggest Baskentgaz' growth story is impressive: "The company, [which serves] 1.3m subscribers, of which 95% is household (1.27mn), demonstrated a CAGR of 12.1% between 1988-2011. In 2011 natural gas sales reached 3,336 bn cubic metres, representing a CAGR of 12.6% between 2003-2011."

The interest in Baskentgaz will be a relief for Turkey's privatization agency, which is struggling to fulfill the country's massive privatisation plans. Ankara has set a revenue target of TRY10bn (€4.2bn) from state asset sales this year. "[W]e are talking about a comprehensive and radical programme," OIB announces on its website. "15 years ago, it was just a controversial idea. Now, it is a national policy implemented by every government and supported by public opinion."

That may be, but investors - or their funding partners at least - appear far from convinced. Many privatisation projects have not gone as smoothly as hoped, with several postponed due to a lack of bidders. In particular, the global funding crunch has reduced companies' ability to take on new projects.

One of the latest high profile problems is the auction of operating rights to Istanbul's second toll bridge, and the highways around Istanbul, Edirne and Ankara. The deadline for the tender was delayed from February 16 to May 17 in January. In early April, Reuters reported that the sale is likely to be pushed even further back to August, as potential bidders ask for more time to secure financing.

However, OIB is optimistic for 2012. "Many privatizations will be finalised this year, accelerating the privatisation process which has seen multiple delays or cancellations, in a bid to meet the revenue target [for 2012]," vice president said in mid-February.

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