(Adds detail on possible alternative bidder, political
background, amends slug for media clients)
By Seda Sezer
ISTANBUL Aug 8 Turkish Islamic lender Bank Asya
said an exclusive deal with Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB)
to acquire a stake in the Turkish lender was annulled,
opening the way for alternative suitors.
Bank Asya attempted earlier this year to form a partnership
with QIB but sources close to the matter told Reuters last month
that QIB and Bank Asya had ended the talks after a disagreement
The Turkish lender said on Friday in a statement to the
Istanbul stock exchange that the exclusivity deal with QIB,
under which Bank Asya could not pursue an offer from another
potential buyer, was terminated as of Aug. 8 so it could receive
formal bids from Turkish investors.
Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said on Wednesday that
state-run Ziraat Bank, which is looking to launch its own
Islamic banking unit, could buy Bank Asya, but an advisor to
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan later denied such a plan.
Babacan stood by his comments on Thursday, saying he had
clearly explained developments regarding Bank Asya a day earlier
and there was no new information.
Ziraat Bank is seen as the most likely partner for Bank Asya
but the two banks have not officially begun talks, sources
familiar with the matter said last month.
Bank Asya has seen its profits and capital base collapse
since it found itself at the centre of a power struggle between
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his former ally Fethullah
Gulen, the Islamic cleric whose sympathisers founded the bank
but has since become Erdogan's foe.
Gulen is now based in the United States but his Cemaat
movement is still seen as a threat to Erdogan's increasingly
authoritarian style of government.
State-owned companies and institutional depositors loyal to
Erdogan have withdrawn 4 billion lira ($1.8 billion), or some 20
percent of the bank's deposits, earlier in the year, according
to media reports.
The bank's future looked dim after the authorities cancelled
its tax collection and social security payment deals on Thursday
- a sign according to observers that the government may be a
step closer to winding down the lender.
The bank also said in a separate statement on Friday that it
does not see a significant impact from the Social Security
Institution cancelling its contract with the bank, effective
(Reporting by Seda Sezer; editing by Ece Toksabay and Tom