Turkey hits the big time
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Turkey hits the big time

With negotiations for Turkey’s entry to the EU under way – albeit with a long lead-in time – completed privatizations, foreign direct investment and domestic deal-making are growing apace despite continuing bureaucratic hold-ups. David Judson reports.

THE RECORD PACE of deal-making in Turkey – a refinery changing hands here, a steel plant on the block there – has Vural Akisik, chairman of Turkey’s largest petrol retailer, Petrol Ofisi, and a reputed deal-maker, pondering what might have been and how things have changed beyond recognition. Akisik is the acknowledged architect of last spring’s sale of Turkey’s Disbank to Belgium’s Fortis for a then head-turning $1.1 billion.

The topic of deals puts Akisik into the mood of the old track star reflecting on the Olympic final he almost made. In place of rummaging through a box of medals, he pulls a dusty Salomon Brothers prospectus from 1989 off the shelf. He finds another from Credit Suisse First Boston from 1990. That long ago both firms envisaged the sale of Turkey’s sprawling state steel conglomerate Erdemir.

“There have been many false springs. This time it really has arrived,” said Akisik. The point is repeated in almost any conversation here. After nearly a generation of hits and misses, fragile and hesitant governments and two deep economic crises, Turkey is open for business in a big way.

Nothing illustrates the point better that November’s sale of Erdemir to Turkish military pension fund Oyak.

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