A pedestrian passes an advertisement for Turk Telekom AS telecommunication services in the Nisantasi district of Istanbul, Turkey. (Photographer: Kerem Uzel/Bloomberg)  

Turkish Banks Take Over Largest Phone Operator After Default

(Bloomberg) -- A group of Turkey’s major banks took control of Turk Telekom AS, the nation’s largest phone company, setting it up for a likely sale after previous owner Otas defaulted on a multi-billion-dollar loan.

Akbank TAS will hold 35.6 percent of the special purpose vehicle set up to take on Otas’s 55 percent controlling stake, Turkiye Garanti Bankasi AS will have 22.1 percent of that entity, and Turkiye Is Bankasi AS’s share is 11.6 percent, according to filings Saturday. The other owners haven’t been disclosed, though almost 30 local and international banks signaled earlier this year that they’d participate in the SPV.

The lenders intend to sell the controlling stake, according to a separate statement from Lazard Ltd., which advised them on setting up the SPV. The lenders had previously signaled their plans to take control, with Akbank’s chief executive officer saying earlier this month that they intended to sell Turk Telekom to a “reasonable investor” rather than operate it themselves.

The creditors originally provided Otas, whose full name is Ojer Telekomunikasyon AS, with a $4.75 billion loan in 2013. The banks, which also included BNP Paribas SA and Deutsche Bank AG, were locked in talks for years after Otas failed to pay a September 2016 installment on the loan.

The slump in the Turkish lira hit the revenue it received from Turk Telekom’s dividends and made it more difficult to repay the dollar-denominated loan. Otas was controlled by a Dubai-based firm that was partly owned by Saudi Telecom Co.

Other Turk Telekom shareholders include the government, which holds 25 percent and backed the SPV plan, and the nation’s wealth fund, with 6.7 percent. The remaining shares are publicly traded. Raiffeisen Investment AG also advised the banks on setting up the SPV.

Turk Telekom also appointed a new chairman -- Turkish Deputy Transportation Minister Omer Fatih Sayan, who had been the company’s vice-chairman. He replaces Mohammed Hariri.

The SPV -- Levent Yapilandirma Yonetimi AS -- released a separate statement saying its main purpose was to enable transferring the stake to an expert investor as soon as possible, in the interests of both Turk Telekom and the country as a whole, Anadolu reported.

Previous directors Cenk Serdar, Faisal Mohammed I Aldughaither and Al-Hakam Marwan Moh’d Kanafani also resigned. Hakan Aran, Muammer Cuneyt Sezgin and Eyup Engin were named as replacements.

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