* Government wants Turkcell to stay in Turkish hands
* Deal expected to be reached with Turkish partner
* Shareholder dispute has left Turkcell hamstrung
By Asli Kandemir and Orhan Coskun
ISTANBUL, June 10 Turkey's Cukurova Holding is
close to securing financing from a local partner to recover a
disputed stake in the country's biggest mobile phone operator
Turkcell, three sources close to the matter said on
Cukurova and Altimo, the telecoms investment arm of Russian
billionaire Mikhail Fridman's Alfa Group, have been fighting for
7 years for control of Turkcell, choking decision-making at the
firm and preventing the payment of dividends.
The Turkish government is keen for Turkcell to remain in
Turkish hands and has been pushing for a local corporate partner
to help Cukurova raise the $1.6 billion it has been ordered to
pay to recover the stake, the sources said.
"Both Cukurova and Turkey will be unhappy if Cukurova fails
to get the stake back. It's unavoidable for a new player to be
involved. This will be acceptable to both Cukurova and the
Turkish government," one of the sources said.
"The government does not want to be dealing with a financial
creditor. There will be a strategic creditor involved ...
Cukurova would not have to put additional owners' equity in this
financing package," the source said.
Two of the three sources said Cukurova would obtain
financing from Turkish conglomerate Yildiz Holding. Turkey's
largest food group declined to comment.
Cukurova said on Wednesday it was in talks with undisclosed
institutions to arrange financing to pay Alfa.
One of the sources said the financing deal was expected to
be concluded next week.
Britain's Privy Council ruled last July that Cukurova, owned
by one of Turkey's richest men, Mehmet Emin Karamehmet, must pay
around $1.6 billion - a sum which includes interest payments -
to Altimo within 60 days if it wants to recover the stake.
It subsequently extended the deadline, most recently to June
24. Altimo appropriated the 13.8 percent stake - a controlling
stake due to Turkcell's complex ownership structure - when
Cukurova defaulted on a $1.35 billion loan.
"The Turkish government has been looking into this very
closely. They've almost found a solution for the stake to remain
in Turkey," the third source close to the matter said.
Cukurova is registered in the British Virgin Islands, which
is why the case is being dealt with by Britain's Privy Council,
the final court of appeal for some countries in the
Commonwealth, a grouping of countries which are mostly former
territories of the British Empire.
(Writing by Seda Sezer; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Louise