ISTANBUL Italian bank UniCredit (CRDI.MI) Chief Executive Federico Ghizzoni said part-owned Turkish lender Yapi Kredi Bank (YKBNK.IS) could complete a sale of its insurance arm Yapi Kredi Sigorta by the middle of next year if the right partner is found.
Yapi Kredi is currently in the process of trying to sell the insurance unit, Yapi Kredi Sigorta YKSGR.IS, which bankers have said was valued at around 1.6 billion lira ($900 million).
"If we find the right partner, the process of selling Yapi Kredi Sigorta could be completed by the middle of 2013," Ghizzoni said at a news conference in Istanbul on Wednesday.
Analysts have said Yapi Kredi was likely to sell a stake in the pension arm of Yapi Kredi Sigorta separately because the valuation of the business as a whole was proving too high.
Yapi Kredi Chief Executive Faik Acikalin also said the sale process of Yapi Kredi Sigorta was continuing.
Separately, Ghizzoni said UniCredit was watching for acquisition opportunities, but did not currently have any plans.
"Turkey is one of the priority markets for us and a country where we will continue to grow and invest," he said.
Yapi Kredi Chairman Mustafa Koc told the same news conference his bank would seriously consider buyout opportunities.
Yapi Kredi sees 16-18 percent loan growth in 2013 and deposit growth would be higher than the sector's average next year, Acikalin said.
The lender plans to open 40-50 branches next year as it plans to grow organically, he said.
Yapi Kredi is Turkey's fourth largest private bank in terms of consolidated assets, worth 118.2 billion lira ($66.25 billion).
(Reporting by Ebru Tuncay; Writing by Seda Sezer; Editing by Daren Butler and Hans-Juergen Peters)