Mizuho May Seek Bank License or Bank Stake in Turkey

Mizuho Corporate Bank Ltd., a unit of Mizuho Financial Group Inc., Japan’s third-largest lender by market value, has a “desire” to get a bank license in Turkey or acquire a stake in a Turkish bank.

A representative office in Istanbul, which the Tokyo-based lender has recently opened, “won’t suffice” as Mizuho is “keen” to expand its presence in Turkey “as soon as possible,” Yasuhiro Sato, chief executive officer of Mizuho Financial Group Inc., said at a news conference in Istanbul today.

Turkey’s $772 billion economy that grew 8.5 percent in 2011 is luring banking industry investment as unidentified investors snapped up Citigroup Inc.’s 10.1 percent stake in Akbank TAS, Turkey’s second-largest lender by market value, in an accelerated sale for $1.15 billion on May 25. Moscow-based OAO Sberbank entered exclusive talks to buy Denizbank AS in Istanbul from Dexia SA, the Franco-Belgian lender said May 24. Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA, Spain’s second-biggest bank, bought 24.9 percent of Turkiye Garanti Bankasi AS, the biggest Turkish lender by market value, for $5.8 billion in March last year.

“We would like our presence here to be more than just a representative office,” Sato said. “If we have a bank or stake in a bank in Turkey, that will also make it easier to lend in Turkish liras as project finance.”

Project Finance

Mizuho is advising a consortium of companies including Astaldi SpA, Japan’s Itochu Corp., IHI Corp. and five Turkish contractors in a $6 billion project which includes a 420-kilometer (261-mile) highway linking Istanbul to Izmir and a 3-kilometer suspension bridge crossing over the Izmit Bay in the Sea of Marmara, according to Sato.

“Our exposure to Turkey is more than $1 billion now and we are keen to increase this,” Sato said.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking to propel the economy with at least $10 billion of infrastructure investments, including highways, bridges and tunnels through Treasury-guaranteed loans. Turkish banks have been unable to plug a funding gap as European lenders have curbed lending to strengthen their balance sheets.

The Astaldi-led group will get $2.5 billion from a Japanese consortium and $4 billion from lenders including Akbank, Garanti Bankasi, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Mizuho Financial Group, Sabah newspaper said May 29.

Mizuho plans to take part in Turkey’s plans to build three nuclear power plants in the next decade, Sato said. The bank also plans financing for roads, ports, power plants and railway projects, he said.

“We can help Japanese companies like Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi Ltd. to come to Turkey for projects,” Sato said. “There are only 110 Japanese companies operating in Turkey while there are 30,000 in China.”

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