x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Turkey on target to achieve big ambitions

Turkey's stock market has big ambitions, wanting at least 20 companies to float shares this year.

Turkey's stock market has big ambitions, wanting at least 20 companies to float shares this year.

That is as many as listed in the entire Mena region last year, the investment company Al Masah Capital says. And judging by the Istanbul Stock Exchange's (ISE) recent track record, it could achieve its targets.

The ISE, which gained almost 30 per cent last year after doubling in value in 2009, listed 22 companies last year with a total value of 1 billion lira, although some of them were capital increases.

The UAE only recently saw its first announced initial public offering (IPO) in two years, from the mobile phone retailer Axiom in Dubai, which was cancelled because of poor market conditions.

Scepticism still surrounds a series of IPOs planned in the UAE in the next few months. But there is confidence in Turkey.

This month the country's deputy prime minister Ali Babacan said the government wanted to turn the ISE into a joint stock company because it would open up the market to international partnerships. It was a sign that Turkey does not want to be left behind in the "bourse wars".

Last month, the London Stock Exchange announced a US$3.2bn merger with the Toronto Stock Exchange, only to be followed by a $10bn tie-up between the NYSE Euronext and Deutsche Boerse, which will create the world's biggest exchange by revenue.

But Turkey is not one to be pushed to the sidelines. Its young population of about 74 million, living in a stable democracy that has been largely immune to the recent regional turmoil, has made it a lucrative country for investors.

"International investor interest in Turkey has never been higher," said Faisal Hasan, the head of research at the Kuwaiti investment company Global Investment House.

Mr Hasan said the government was putting new emphasis on attracting on equity offerings, with support from the country's regulator, the Capital Market Board, and the ISE. He said the coalition government was particularly "pushing hard" to encourage small and medium-sized businesses on to the market.