Cukurova financing for disputed Turkcell stake hits hurdle

ISTANBUL, July 16 Wed Jul 16, 2014 9:03am EDT

ISTANBUL, July 16 (Reuters) - Efforts by Turkey's Cukurova to recover a disputed controlling stake in mobile phone operator Turkcell suffered a setback on Wednesday after regulators said fellow conglomerate Yildiz Holding could not help it finance the move.

Yildiz said Turkey's treasury and banking regulators had warned against its private equity unit Gozde Girisim helping to raise the $1.6 billion Cukurova needs to take back control of Turkcell.

Cukurova and Altimo, the telecoms investment arm of Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman's Alfa Group, have been fighting for seven years for control of Turkcell, choking decision-making at the firm and preventing the payment of dividends.

"The treasury gave an adverse opinion. The BDDK banking regulator also gave a verbal negative opinion," Yildiz Holding's head of communications, Zuhal Seker, told Reuters.

She did not say on what basis the regulators had warned against the move, but said the company was still evaluating its options ahead of a July 30 deadline for Cukurova to pay.

Gozde's shares fell 0.65 percent to 3.06 lira, while Turkcell's shares were down 0.39 percent at 12.80 lira.

The Turkish government is keen for Turkcell, the country's biggest mobile phone operator, to remain in Turkish hands and for Cukurova to secure financing from a local partner to recover the stake.

Three sources close to the matter said last month that Cukurova would receive financing from a local partner, and two of them said that partner would be Yildiz.

Gozde Girisim Chief Executive Cem Karakas told Reuters last month Gozde was in talks on a "structured financing" concerning the country's telecoms industry but gave no details.

Swedish company TeliaSonera, which owns an effective 37 percent of Turkcell, has been embroiled in a separate but related dispute with Cukurova concerning a claim for damages after the Turkish company reneged on an earlier deal to sell TeliaSonera part of its stake in Turkcell.

(Reporting by Asli Kandemir; Writing by Seda Sezer; Editing by Nick Tattersall and David Evans)