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A coincidental bargain

When Banco Comercial Português paid just over $3 million to buy a bankrupt bank from the Turkish government two years ago, it was snapping up probably its biggest bargain ever without knowing it.

"It all started with a coincidence," says Tezcan Yaramanci, chairman of BankEuropa, the brand name under which BCP is operating its acquisition.

Yaramanci, a former chairman of Turkish Airlines and former privatization administration chief, was having dinner in Athens with a Greek friend, Dimitri Kontominas. Kontominas told Yaramanci that he had formed a 50/50 joint venture with BCP, and set up a bank, Novabank.

The following day Yaramanci toured some Novabank branches. "I was very impressed," recalls Yaramanci. "It was the sort of bank I would want to be a client of. I asked my Greek chum: why don't we introduce the same concept to Turkey?"

Yaramanci returned to Istanbul and started looking around the shattered banking sector. "We chanced upon Sitebank," he says. "The shareholder asked for a vast sum. The bank was going bust but she was not aware of it - which goes to show you what kind of people owned banks and why so many of them went bust.

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