BofA’s Merrill Puts Halkbank Under Review After CEO’s Detention

Bank of America Corp’s Merrill Lynch is reviewing its buy rating on Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS (HALKB) after chief executive officer Suleyman Aslan was taken into police custody as part of a corruption probe two days ago.

“We intend to re-assess our view on the stock once we obtain enough certainty on the current investigation by the eligible authorities,” according to an e-mailed statement today from Merrill Lynch. “We’re no longer in a position to a form a recommendation on the shares of the bank.”

Halkbank, as the lender is known, has slumped 15 percent since local media reported the arrests on Dec. 17. Aslan was detained along with dozens more during a probe into gold smuggling, money laundering and bribery in government tenders, according to the state-run Anatolia news agency. Aslan is among 51 people still being detained, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said at a press conference yesterday.

Halkbank has not made a formal statement to investors since confirming to the Istanbul bourse on Dec. 17 that documents and information had been requested in relation to the probe.

The stock fell 2.2 percent to 13.45 liras as of 12:09 p.m. in Istanbul.

To contact the reporter on this story: Isobel Finkel in Istanbul at ifinkel1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dale Crofts at dcrofts@bloomberg.net

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