16 Nisan 2011 Cumartesi

Turkish banks bear brunt of Dutch imbalances

The alarmingly large size of the Dutch banking sector has forced authorities in the Netherlands to take punitive measures, and Turkish banks operating in the country are also being punished. Speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review, a Dutch official says that as his government guarantees deposits of all banks, it has to implement measures to protect the taxpayer. ‘We have a very large financial sector relative to our economy,’ says Van Den Berg of the Dutch Foreign Trade Ministry
Henk Bleker (L), the Dutch minister for agriculture and foreign trade, speaks with Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek in Ankara on March 21, 2011. AA photo

Henk Bleker (L), the Dutch minister for agriculture and foreign trade, speaks with Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek in Ankara on March 21, 2011. AA photo
The punitive measures against Turkish banks operating in the Netherlands are not aiming to punish Turkey but are related to concerns about the country’s financial stability, according to a top official in the Dutch Foreign Trade Ministry.

Regulators in the Netherlands earlier this year started implementing extremely high capital adequacy ratios on Turkish lenders active in the country.
“The problem is that the Dutch government guarantees deposits of Dutch consumers in foreign banks,” said Marten van Den Berg, the international affairs director at the Netherlands’ Foreign Trade Ministry, in an interview during a Dutch business mission to Istanbul. The mission, which included representatives from 22 companies, was led by Henk Bleker, the Dutch Minister for Agriculture and Foreign Trade.

“We have discovered during the financial crisis that in case a foreign bank faces a difficulty, Dutch taxpayers will have to pay for it eventually, as deposits are under government guarantee,” Berg told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

The new regulations hit loan activity of eight Turkish banks operating in the country – Akbank N.V., Anadolubank Nederland B.V., Fortis Holding Malta B.V., The Economy Bank N.V., or TEB, Garanti Bank International N.V., Demir-Halk Bank (Nederland) N.V. and Yapı Kredi Bank Nederland N.V. – which are forced to keep huge chunks of their deposits at the Netherlands’ central bank without even receiving any interest.

“That is not exclusive to Turkish banks – it applies to all banks,” said Berg. “Currently, talks are ongoing between the Turkish regulators and the National Bank of Netherlands. A delegation from the Turkish Central Bank is in the Netherlands as I speak.”

According to the daily Star newspaper, Turkish regulators had issued a warning to the Netherlands in February, hinting at retaliation.

Speaking to the daily Milliyet on March 2, Aykut Demiray, the deputy general manager of İşbank, warned that if the Netherlands forces Turkish banks more, they will “orient toward other countries."

Too large a financial sector

However, Berg said the problem is about the banking sector in the Netherlands in general. “We have a very large financial sector relative to our gross domestic product,” said Berg, noting that this could make nations more vulnerable to a financial crisis.

The Dutch banking sector is the biggest in the eurozone, according to a March 21 report by Rabobank. Data shows that the size of the Dutch banking sector is 414.7 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. The figure compares to 327.2 percent in Ireland, and 172.9 percent in Greece. The Dutch situation presents a “potential risk,” said Rabobank analyst Richard McGuire.

Also speaking on bilateral trade, Berg said Dutch firms are looking for opportunities in various sectors such as maritime, construction and energy. “Turkey is an interesting market with a high growth rate. Meanwhile, the Netherlands performed relatively well during the crisis,” he said. “Our countries could join forces to increase bilateral trade.”

Dutch companies are also interested in penetrating the Middle East and Asian markets through Turkey, the official said. “Turkey is an interesting gateway, and we could [use] it to penetrate neighboring regions in the Black Sea and the Middle East,” Berg said. “It would be wonderful for Dutch firms to connect to other countries in the region [through Turkey].”

Reminding that the Netherlands has a considerably large maritime industry, Berg said Dutch maritime firms have a natural tendency to expand abroad. “We are looking for all kinds of opportunities in this field,” he said.
Commenting on nuclear security in Europe after the unfolding disaster in Japan, Berg said the Dutch government is looking into possibilities of building a second nuclear power plant. However he said the government would examine the results of European Union-wide “stress tests” involving nuclear plants.

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