May 2, 2019 / 7:47 AM / 21 days ago

Turkey expects bids on lottery rights in June: wealth fund head

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey aims to take bids in June in a tender for the operating rights of the national lottery, and it aims to complete the deal by year end, the head of the country’s sovereign wealth fund was reported on Thursday as saying.

Turkish media also cited the wealth fund’s (TVF) general manager Zafer Sonmez as telling reporters that it was holding talks on becoming a minority partner in a major project that would lower the country’s current account deficit.

The TVF, worth $50 billion, was set up in 2016 by the government to develop and increase the value of Turkey’s strategic assets and provide resources for investment.

Last September, President Tayyip Erdogan appointed himself chairman of the fund and completely changed its board in the wake of Turkey’s shift to an executive presidency that centralized powers across government.

The TVF, which holds the licensing rights for the Milli Piyango lottery operator, has held talks with strategic players on the transfer of rights, Sonmez was cited as saying by the website of Hurriyet newspaper.

“We are considering the transfer of operating rights for a 10-year period. We have been talking with all major companies since February,” Sonmez said.

He said there was potential to raise the lottery’s annual revenues from 3.5 billion lira ($586 million), or 0.1 percent of gross national product, to 1-2 percent of GNP. Previous tenders for the lottery operating rights were unsuccessful.

“We will take the final bids in the middle of June. Our goal is to determine by end-June or early July who we will give it to. The full transfer will be done by end-year,” he said.

Regarding the plans to becoming a minority partner in a major foreign investment in Turkey, Sonmez did not specify what it was, but said it could take a stake of around 15-20 percent in the project.

“We are holding the final talks on becoming a minority partner in a very big project which will lower the current account deficit. We will be a minority shareholder in a big foreign investment being made in Turkey,” Sonmez said.

Sabah newspaper reported Sonmez as telling the reporters that the fund was preparing to issue a bond this year as part of a planned bond issuance program.

The government has transferred to the TVF stakes worth billions of dollars of state assets, including stakes in flag carrier Turkish Airlines, major banks and fixed-line operator Turk Telekom.

Reporting by Ceyda Caglayan; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer

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