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Following a UK court ruling handing it the right to buy its stake in Turkish mobile operator Turkcell seized by Russia's Altimo, Cukurova is scouting for a $2bn loan to power a deal, unnamed sources claimed on February 5, although the two sides are pushing for prices at least $600m apart.
Apparently determined to take the stake back, Cukurova is now negotiating with more than one lender for the cash, according to sources cited by Reuters. Cukurova owner Mehmet Emin Karamehmet could pledge holdings in oil firm Genel Energy or steel maker Noksel Celik Boru as collateral, they claim.
Cukurova has been tussling with Altimo - the telecoms arm of rapacious oligarch Mikhail Fridman's Alfa Group - over the 13.8% Turkcell stake ever since the Russian company seized it in 2005 after the Turkish stakeholder defaulted on a $1.35bn loan. In a final ruling, the UK Privy Council said on January 30 that Cukurova should have the option to buy back the shares - which offer Altimo a controlling stake.
Whilst the court ordered the Turkish holding be given the opportunity of recovering the stake "on appropriate conditions," it said it needs more information from the two sides before it can make a final decision on "the basis and terms of such relief." Unsurprisingly, sources claim that there is some distance between the two sides. "Cukurova argues that the amount of debt has to be escalated by global borrowing rates, which will end up around $1.8-1.9bn," one said. "Altimo reckons it should be escalated by default rates, bringing the amount up to $2.5bn."
However, with the price of Turkcell shares having been held back for years by the dispute, as well as clear determination in Ankara that control of the country's biggest mobile operator should not end up in Russian hands, Karamehmet is reportedly ready to do whatever he must to reclaim the shares. "Cukurova would not want to lose control over Turkcell so it will pay whatever amount the Privy Council sets," a second source said, pointing out the upside potential of Turkcell shares once the shareholder dispute is resolved.
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