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Banco Popular Says First Branch in Turkey Is ‘Top’ Priority

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Dec. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Banco Popular Espanol SA, Spain’s sixth-biggest lender, is focused on opening a branch in Turkey, said Juan Echanojauregui, head of international banking.

Establishing the first branch in the country is “top of the list” of Banco Popular’s priorities, Echanojauregui said at news conference in Istanbul today.

Banco Popular, based in Madrid, is joining Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA, Spain’s second-biggest bank, in growing its business in Turkey, where the industry regulator expects loans to expand between 15 percent and 18 percent this year. The number of foreign and local banks operating in the country is expected to reach 60, the regulator said last month. There are currently 49 banks doing business there.

Banco Popular signed an agreement today with Turkey’s Investment Agency to enter the market and on potential investments, Echanojauregui said. The bank opened a liaison office in Istanbul in May to support Spanish companies.

Banco Bilbao paid $5.8 billion for a 24.9 percent stake in Turkiye Garanti Bankasi AS, Turkey’s largest bank by market value, last year. Intesa Sanpaolo SpA, Italy’s biggest consumer bank, applied to the regulator to open a branch last month. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., Japan’s biggest lender, has also made a formal application.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sibel Akbay in Istanbul at sakbay@bloomberg.net

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

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