August 15, 2014

Trading of Bank Asya shares blocked indefinitely

İstanbul's stock exchange has indefinitely extended the suspension of trade for Islamic lender Bank Asya, according to reports on Thursday.

Trading of the bank's shares was initially suspended on Aug. 7.

The bank is being targeted due to its affiliation with the Hizmet movement, a grassroots organization inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. President-elect Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has publicly declared his intent to wage a struggle against Gülen's followers, going so far as to admit that his efforts amounted to a “witch hunt.”

It appeared that the government tried to sink Bank Asya earlier this year, when state-owned companies and firms close to the government initiated a mass withdrawal of cash from the lender. Earlier this month, Bank Asya's tax collection and social security payment deals were canceled, but the lender said that it would not be severely impacted.

Bank Asya's non-performing loan ratio is more than three times higher than the sector average and the lender has seen its stock decline this year, while banks on average enjoyed gains. The bank's January-June profits were 48.8 percent lower than last year.

Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said last week that the state-run bank Ziraat Bankası intended to purchase the bank; however, Erdoğan's top adviser Yiğit Bulut then denied the claim. The bank's shares rose following Babacan's comments, but fell sharply the next day after Bulut commented on the issue.

Published on Today's Zaman, 14 August 2014, Thursday