March 1, 2016

TMSF denies rights of shareholders in seized lender

Control of Bank Asya cannot be returned to its shareholders according to current regulations, Turkey's Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) has said, and plans for a possible sale of the government-seized Islamic lender continue, despite the wishes of some shareholders, who have the right to reject such a move.

In a statement on Tuesday, the TMSF said it has extended the nine-month period permitted for sale or liquidation by another three months as of Feb. 29. The fund will sell the bank by the deadline or if no buyer emerges by that date the bank's assets will be liquidated, the statement read.

Earlier remarks of TMSF Chairman Şakir Ercan Gül, who announced preparations for a possible sale last week, were slammed on Sunday by Süleyman Taşbaş, a lawyer representing shareholders who have called the fund's decision a forced maneuver that lacks legal foundation.

Last year the government took control of the lender, saying its financial structure and management presented a threat to the financial system. The bank has denied the allegations of financial weakness. A political campaign against Bank Asya began almost two years ago when some of 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.

Tuesday's statement also underlined that the fund has imposed no pressure on shareholders to approve a possible sale but that some of them had asked the TMSF to start the sale process. However, Gül said last week: "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."

In February of last year Bank Asya shareholders initiated legal action to invalidate the takeover and regain control of the lender. Pointing out that the shareholders' consent is required for a sale of the bank, Taşbaş also said the majority of the shareholders are determined to continue seeking justice both at home and through the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Founded by sympathizers of the faith-based Gülen movement, the bank has long been a target of the government, which accuses the movement of attempting a civil coup by revealing corruption allegations that implicated Cabinet ministers.

Published on Today's Zaman, 1 March 2016, Tuesday