30 Mayıs 2011 Pazartesi

IFC ready to fund Turkish firms to invest in energy projects

The International Finance Corporation, or IFC, a member of the World Bank, said it might support Turkish companies struggling to pay the amounts promised for the country’s energy privatizations.

“We are open to support Turkish firms bidding for energy projects,” said Lars Thunell, executive vice president and chief executive of the IFC, during a Thursday interview in Istanbul.

Recalling that the IFC raised the amount of funds allocated for Turkey from $500 million to $1.3 billion for this year, Thunell said, “We plan to invest nearly $3 billion including syndication credits in Turkey during the next four years.”

Some Turkish companies experienced difficulties in paying the privatization amounts of electricity grids this year. Park Holding, the top bidder for Akdeniz Elektrik, the electricity distribution grid in Turkey’s Mediterranean region, announced earlier this week that it could not afford the $1.1 billion it promised.
The top bidders for Istanbul’s Anadolu and Rumeli grids, Toroslar, Dicle, Gediz and Trakya grids have also demanded extra time to make their payments. The due date for the payments was May 31.

MMEKA Makine, a joint venture between businessmen Mehmet Kazancı and Mehmet Emin Karamehmet, failed on May 9 to pay $1.21 billion for the privatization of the Başkent Doğalgaz, the natural gas grid in the capital city of Ankara.

“In general, our door is open to provide funding for such companies,” Thunell said, speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News. Recalling that the IFC has been interested in Turkey’s energy distribution companies, he said, “If we have an offer, we would consider such investments.”

Transforming the Istanbul office into a “regional headquarters” last year, the IFC in Turkey covers 30 countries across the Europe, Middle East and North Africa, or EMEA region.

The corporation invested nearly 35 percent of last year’s global fund in this region and the IFC invested a record $18 billion last year, said Thunell, adding that the EMEA region directed from Istanbul received nearly $4.5 billion by 2010.

‘Southern Corridor’

Responding to a question on the European Commission’s search for investors to form a possible “Southern Corridor” to bring natural gas from Iraq and the Caspian region to Europe, Thunell said: “We are interested in such projects. We are ready to help Turkish companies.”

“The business plans of firms needs to be evaluated for such a decision,” he said. “Our capability is also important as the size of these projects is huge, so one cannot just rely on a single source.”

“We are also bringing other investors to Turkey since the country has performed significantly well during the last couple of years, especially during the global economic crisis,” he said. Turkish companies are “flexible players.”

“It has been interesting to see Turkish companies evolving into regional powers, investing in Eastern Europe and Russia and then penetrating into the Middle East.” The trend is now the vice versa due to the regional turmoil in Middle East as “the companies are back to focusing on the Eastern European market,” he said.
The European Commission will seek investors for pipelines that could form a so-called Southern Corridor, according to Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, reported Handelsblatt, a German newspaper, Wednesday.

Arab spring to boost regional economy 

“The Arab Spring will bring real opportunities to the region economically,” said Thunell, adding that the process may be tough for this year and 2012. The size of economies with less political interference could boost the trade and investments in the turmoil-hit region.
“The World Bank allocated $6 billion recently to restructure the economy in Egypt and Libya,” said Thunell, adding that it is too early to reveal a similar fund for Syria.

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