February 28, 2016

Bank Asya shareholders dismiss fund’s statement on possible sale

A statement from the deposit insurance fund that Islamic lender Bank Asya would either be sold or liquidated by the end of May has no legal basis and its shareholders will never agree to such forced maneuvers, a lawyer said over the weekend.

Süleyman Taşbaş, a lawyer for Bank Asya shareholders, told Today's Zaman that selling the bank is not legally possible according to banking law. “The bank's equity capital ratio is still strong; it has TL 1.35 billion in equities and another TL 1.4 billion deposited with the central bank. … Plus, the shareholders still hold ownership,” Taşbaş explained.

Last year the government seized the assets of Bank Asya, saying its financial structure and management presented a threat to the financial system. The bank denied the allegations of financial weakness at the time. A political campaign against Bank Asya started almost two years ago when its depositors, including state-owned companies and institutions and foreign fund managers, withdrew TL 4 billion ($1.36 billion), amounting to about 20 percent of its deposits, eroding its earnings and capital base.

"We are in talks to sell the bank. Some of its partners have accepted it, some of them have not. We will sell the bank in any case," Şakir Ercan Gül, chairman of the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF), said in İstanbul on Friday.

Taşbaş criticized Gül's “irresponsible” statements, adding that all parties should respect the judicial process that is currently under way with regards to the bank's future. In February of last year Bank Asya shareholders initiated legal action to suspend the takeover and regain control of the lender. Pointing out that the shareholders' consent is required for a sale of the bank, Taşbaş said the majority of shareholders are determined to continue seeking justice both at home and with the European Court of Human Rights.

The comments on a possible sale of Bank Asya could signal its handover to the Islamic banking arm of a state-run Turkish lender, market experts argued over the weekend.

Bank Asya said in March 2013 it had started talks on a strategic partnership with Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) and planned to complete the process soon. In July 2014, however, the two ended talks over QIB acquiring a stake in the Turkish lender due to “failed talks over the price,” sources said back then.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 28 February 2016, Sunday