By Ebru Tuncay
ISTANBUL, March 25 (Reuters) - Turkish Islamic lender Bank Asya has started talks on a strategic partnership with Qatar Islamic Bank and it plans to complete the process soon, it said in a statement on Tuesday to the Istanbul stock exchange.
The Islamic bank has been in focus since Turkish media reported that state-owned companies and institutional depositors loyal to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan have withdrawn 4 billion lira ($1.8 billion), or some 20 percent of the bank’s total deposits, because the bank’s founders included sympathisers of cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally-turned-critic of Erdogan.
Bank Asya said it had weathered the mass deposit withdrawals and was not at risk. The government has declined to comment.
Media speculated the withdrawals were part of an orchestrated backlash against a government corruption investigation, blamed on Gulen, and which poses one of the biggest challenges to Erdogan’s 11-year rule. ($1 = 2.2372 Turkish Liras) (Writing by Seda Sezer, editing by Louise Heavens)