Cablegate: Privatization Update: Update: One Step Forward,

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

130610Z Nov 03




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary: The Turkish government has canceled the
privatization of Tekel,s tobacco operations, because bids
submitted were far lower than expected. Though the
cancellation is a blow to the privatization program, the
government did accept the high bid for the smaller alcohol
side of Tekel. The Tupras tender awaits enactment of
legislation that GOT authorities hope will improve the value
of the company. The GOT Council of Ministers has approved a
privatization plan for Turk Telekom, under which bids will be
received by the end of May, 2004. End Summary.


2. (U) The Privatization Authority (PA) announced on
November 5 that Japan Tobacco (JT) was the high bidder for
the Tekel tobacco operations, offering USD 1.15 billion. A
consortium led by Turkish company Tutsab was high bidder on
Tekel's alcohol division, at USD 292 million. While
Tutsab,s bid was in line with expectations, JT,s bid was
substantially below the USD 2-3 billion predicted by the
market and expected by PA officials (Reftel).

3. (SBU) Initially, Finance Minister Unakitan resisted
discussion of a possible cancellation, while State Minister
Babacan said that the market sets the price and that
privatization &has to happen.8 Nevertheless, on November 11
the Privatization Tender Commission canceled the tender.
Turkish newspapers report that, prior to deciding to cancel,
Ministry of Finance officials met with JT and tried to induce
JT to increase its bid.

4. (SBU) The cancellation had been presaged by PA
President Kilci on November 10, who predicted to Econ
Counselor that the tender would be canceled, stating that the
GOT did not intend to sell Tekel &below its value.8 Econ
Counselor cautioned Kilci to consider carefully the
consequences of cancellation, noting that it would raise
questions about the GOT's commitment to privatization and
cause investors on future tenders to be more hesitant; that
if the sale went forward the money could be used to pay off
high interest rate debt, thus saving several hundreds of
millions of dollars; and that there was no guarantee that a
subsequent tender would produce higher bids. Kilci was,
however, unmoved. He hinted that the bids had been corrupted
by collusion, noting that, in the second round of bidding on
Tekel the participants did not increase their bids, while
typically in the second round bids are 2 to 3 times higher
than in the first round. Kilci also said that alternate
strategies available to GOT included selling the company in
pieces, or holding it until market conditions improved.

5. (U) The Turkish stock market fell sharply (5.3 percent)
on November 6. Market analysts report that the disappointing
Tekel bid was a major factor in the sell-off, along with the
European Union Progress Report,s mention of the need to
solve the Cyprus problem. On November 12, the market rallied
despite the news of the tender cancellation, having already
anticipated that event.

6. (U) Turkish press reports indicate that Philip Morris
(PM) did not bid on Tekel. They claim that, because of PM,s
market dominance (Reftel), the PA had asked PM to commit to
divest some of Tekel,s cigarette brands. When PM was unable
to find buyers for those brands, it withdrew from the
competition. The Financial Times reports that an advisor to
one of the bidders said that companies took into account the
unfriendly investment environment, unstable regulatory
authorities, and the quote immoral unquote bureaucracy in

7. (SBU) Before the bids were announced, Competition
Authority (CA) officials told Emboff that no matter which
bidder won, the CA would have market dominance issues and
would likely require some divestment. One investment banker
also told Emboff that the GOT will embark on a major
anti-smoking campaign.

8. (SBU) Although the Tupras bids remain sealed, press
reports claim that only two companies bid on Tupras:
Tataristan National Petroleum Company (TatarNeft) and a joint
venture between Cukurova Holdings and a Kazakh oil company.
While Kilci expressed optimism to Econ Counselor that the
sale would proceed, he also noted that no final decision on
the bids will be made until the new Petroleum Market Law
(Ref) nears enactment. According to Kilci, the Petroleum Law
is designed to make Tupras more attractive, thereby
increasing the PA,s leverage on the bidders, or leading to a
new round of bidding. Kilci said the situation should be
resolved within the next couple of weeks.


9. (U) Petkim bids are due November 18. However, Kilci
advised Econ Counselor that the bid deadline would probably
be postponed until after the Tupras sale was approved, since
the identity of the new owner of Tupras was important to
Petkim bidders.


10. (U) On November 11, Communication Ministry Binali
Yildirim announced that the cabinet had agreed upon an
IMF-backed privatization plan for Turk Telekom, under which
bids for the block sale of at least 51% are to be made by the
end of May, 2004. According to Yildirim, foreign investors
will be permitted to purchase the entire block, and if the
block sale is successful, a public offering of the remaining
shares will be made. Five percent of the shares will be
reserved for employees, and a golden share for GOT. Yildirim
further said that the Transportation Ministry, the Treasury
and the PA had formed a special commission to determine the
value of Telekom. Local press reports state that, as a result
of the Tekel debacle, the government will establish a floor
for bids. An unidentified senior Telekom official reportedly
has claimed that the company is worth USD 4 billion, and that
Telecom Italia and Singapore Telecom are the most serious
rivals for the sale.


11. (SBU) Comment: The Tekel cancellation is a blow to the
privatization program. PA staff and many local observers had
hoped that the Tekel and Tupras privatizations would
demonstrate that the GOT was serious about privatization.
The two deals were also expected to generate substantial
revenues for the State. Instead, the disappointing results
suggest the PA may not have a good feel for the market.
Moreover, the Tekel cancellation and Tupras delay will
further reinforce market doubts about the GOT,s commitment
to privatization and could become an issue in negotiations
with the IFI,s. While the Telekom announcement is a bit of
good news, approval of a plan --particularly one required by
the IMF program -- is far easier than actual divestment of
state enterprises. End Comment.

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