Germany's Gothaer eyes Turkish insurer: sources

ISTANBUL Thu Mar 22, 2012 1:08pm EDT

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Germany's Gothaer Insurance Group is in talks to buy a majority stake in Turkish insurer Isik Sigorta from Bank Asya (ASYAB.IS), four sources close to the process told Reuters, as it seeks to tap a potential growth market.

One of the sources said an American insurer was also interested in buying the stake.

Turkey's Bank Asya, which offers banking services that comply with Islamic law, holds a 65.42 percent stake in Isik Sigorta, according to the insurer's website. Other shareholders may also sell their stakes, the sources said.

"Isik Sigorta can be sold as a whole, as a stake sale by other partners could be on the agenda as well," said one of the sources.

Isik Sigorta Chief Executive Officer Recep Kocak declined to comment.

"We are indeed having a closer look at the Turkish insurance market, since we do see potential for growth, but this is still in a very early stage. Therefore I am afraid I cannot give any details at the time being as to who we might be talking to," Gothaer head of communications Martina Fassbenderat said.

One source said talks were close to being concluded.

Bank Asya said last month that it was in talks with investors on the sale of Isik Sigorta.

Turkey has become attractive to global insurance firms in the past few years because of its population of 75 million with an average age of 28.

Belgian-based insurance group Ageas (AGES.BR), formerly known as Fortis, for example, agreed a partnership with Turkish conglomerate Sabanci Holding (SAHOL.IS) last year, buying a 31 percent stake in its non-life insurer unit Aksigorta (AKGRT.IS) for $220 million.

Gothaer Group GVVVAA.UL completed the acquisition of Poland's Polskie Towarzystwo Ubezpieczen (PTU) last year as a part of its strategy to tap growth in eastern European insurance markets.

(Reporting by Ebru Tuncay; Additional reporting by Seda Sezer and Asli Kandemir; Writing by Seda Sezer; Editing by Keiron Henderson and Erica Billingham)

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