Turkey’s Worsening Austria Ties Fuel Cargo Companies’ Fighting

  • Battle of Turkish family and Austrian state company worsens
  • Aras family, Austrian Post aim for control of Aras Kargo

A fight over control of Turkey’s leading cargo company Aras Kargo AS is escalating as an acrimonious battle between the company’s founding family and Austria’s state-owned mail operator is egged on by political tension between Vienna and Ankara.

Evrim Aras, chief executive officer and co-owner of the company, said on Tuesday that Oesterreichische Post AG, Austria’s postal services company, should pull out of Aras Kargo and sell back its stake to the Aras family. The Austrian mail company reiterated that on the contrary, it has the right to buy another 50 percent of the company on top of a 25 percent stake purchased in 2013.

Aras, whose father founded the company and who still owns 75 percent of it with her mother, said in a statement that the disagreements aren’t merely over money or business strategy. Austrian Post had demonstrated a “lack of cultural understanding” and destroyed shareholder value, she said in the statement. She would not allow “the company’s assets or the interests of Turkey’s economy being exploited,” she said.

‘Anti-Austrian’

Political relations have deteriorated between Austria and EU-aspirant Turkey. Always fraught historically and due to the strong influence on public opinion of the anti-immigrant Austrian Freedom Party, they took a turn for the worse after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan started to talk about reintroducing the death penalty following the failed military coup last month.

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has since called for ending Turkey’s EU accession talks and foreign minister Sebastian Kurz threatened to veto progress in the negotiations. That triggered “anti-Austrian reactions” which are also engulfing Aras Kargo’s staff, Aras said in her statement.

Austrian Post earlier this year exercised an option to buy another 50 percent of Aras Kargo but couldn’t agree with the Aras family on pricing. The Istanbul-based cargo company was valued at 1.2 billion liras ($403 million) in 2015, when the two sides started talks over the stake, Aras said in an interview. Talks failed when Austrian Post offered half that level, she said.

Aras said she would take the case to an international arbitration court if no mutual solution can be found, citing investments by the Vienna-based company that fell short of committments.

Austrian Post said it still plans to raise the stake, and dismissed talk about a fallout from the political troubles. The company “is in close contact to government and couldn’t notice any anti-Austrian sentiment in Turkey or at Aras Kargo,” it said in a statement. “We expect that CEO Evrim Aras sticks to the contracts agreed in 2013.”

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