Turkish consortium said to secure $2.5bn to fund power grid privatisation

By bne IntelliNews May 8, 2013

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The Cengiz-Kolin-Limak consortium, which won a tender for two Turkish power grids late last year, has secured $2.5bn from several banks to finance the deal. With previous Turkish privatizations falling through due to funding problems, the deal illustrates the ongoing turnaround in prospects for the country's infrastructure.

The consortium of construction companies has obtained the two-year funding from seven Turkish banks, according to unnamed sources cited by Reuters. It will be used to fund the acquisition of power grids serving Istanbul and a region in the southwest on the Mediterranean coast. The source added that the facility has an additional two-year grace period, and will be provided by a group of the country's largest lenders. Isbank, Garanti, Yapi Kredi, Halkbank, Denizbank , Vakifbank and Ziraat are all involved.

The consortium entered the top bid of $1.96bn in December for the Bogazici grid, Turkey's largest, which supplies the European side of Istanbul. It also placed the highest bid of $546m in a November tender for the sale of Akdeniz Elektrik, a network serving 1.5m customers in southwest Turkey. The deal consolidates its role in Turkish power distribution, with the consortium already running two other grids. Turkey's Board of Privatisation approved the deals in March, and has given Cengiz-Kolin-Limak until June 3 to complete the takeover.

Cengiz, Kolin and Limak are also part of a consortium featuring five Turkish construction companies which won the tender late last week to build and operate Istanbul's third airport. The winning bid is valued at €22bn, although that only denotes the lease cost to the group over 25 years. On top of that, it is expected to need to find around €11bn to build what Ankara claims will be the world's biggest airport, with a significant chunk needed well in advance in order to carry out huge land stabilization. The majority of analysts have cast doubt on the viability of the project at such a high price. Unsurprisingly, government officials have dismissed those views.

Either way, the confidence being shown in funding Turkish infrastructure is a far cry from recent struggles. Turkey saw the 2010 sales of several of its grids - including Bogazici - fall through after the winners of tenders failed to secure the funds to close the deals. However, in an auction in March, Ankara sold off the last of its power grids, while gas networks have also gone under the hammer. Altogether, the sales brought total privatization revenues in 2013 to $8.49bn, more than the $7.46bn combined revenue of the whole of the past three years.

Indeed, the situation has changed so dramatically that a government previously desperate just to find someone to take infrastructure projects off its hands has started pulling deals, insisting that it can do better. Reportedly on the back of direct orders from Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, in February, Turkey cancelled a $5.7bn deal struck in December for a package of toll roads and a pair of Istanbul bridges across the Bosphorus. The PM's claim that that the price was too low will now be tested by a planned IPO.

The surge in availability of finance has come in the wake of a Fitch Ratings upgrade of the sovereign in November, which gave Turkey its first investment grade rating in close to 20 years. It was driven by Ankara's efforts last year to rein in the overheating economy, and in particular, reduce the chronic current account deficit. That gap in funding, powered by rapidly growing domestic demand for imports, exposes Turkish banks to the shaky Eurozone banking sector, on which they are heavily dependent for financing.

While Moody's and S&P remain concerned over the deficit, the cooled economy and Fitch action saw a wave of confidence flood Turkey. On top of that, the country's banks have been boosted by the options offered by Islamic financing. Led by sovereign issues last year, Turkish banks have already issued around $1bn in sukuk bonds in 2013, according to Bloomberg. HSBC - the world's biggest underwriter of the Islamic debt instrument - told the newswire on May 1 that it expects to see that expand to $3bn by the end of the year.

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