Ziraat discouraged by criticism in Greek parliament April 27, 2011Posted by Yilan in Turkey, Yunanistan.
Tags: Can Akın Çağlar, Greece, Turkey, Ziraat
Can Akın Çağlar, the general manager of Turkey’s leading public bank, Ziraat Bank, said they have been unsettled by recent claims by some Greek deputies who allegedly tried to hinder Ziraat’s operations in Greece by calling them into question.
Çağlar was speaking in the Iraqi city of Arbil where he opened a new Ziraat Bank branch on Sunday. Saying that the bank is currently hesitant to further expand its presence in Greece, Çağlar said, “We have questions in our mind that need to be addressed before engaging in any new investment in Greece, particularly following the latest undesirable developments.”Ziraat entered the Greek market in 2009, expecting to attract Turkish expats living in the country, particularly in Western Thrace, home to a relatively large Turkish population. The bank currently operates four offices in Greece — two in Athens and two branches in the Western Thracian cities of Komotini (Gümülcine in Turkish) and Xanthi (İskeçe in Turkish). Many Turks living in these regions, mostly agricultural workers, have already switched their banking operations to Ziraat Bank.
Çağlar said some Greek deputies recently claimed that Ziraat Bank intended to coax Greek landowners to sell their lands to the bank in return for attractive loans with relatively low interest rates. “Others claimed we wanted to take control of the country’s sugar production industry.” The Greek sugar industry relies to a great extent on Thrace region — where Ziraat Bank has hundreds sugar farmer customers. According to Çağlar all of these claims are unfounded and are mere “urban legends.” The bank manager noted that despite the negativities and obstacles, they were not considering ceasing operations in the Greek market. “There is no problem as we are totally complying with the rules and regulations of the Greek financial market.”
Referring to the recent sale of Turkish Finansbank to the National Bank of Greece (NBG), Çağlar said: “There had been parties critical of the sale of Finansbank to NBG, but this issue was never brought up to the Turkish Parliament. Looking at what is happening in Greece today, Greek deputies are putting further pressure on us by bringing new accusations and claims concerning Ziraat to the Greek Parliament.” Çağlar said they have doubt if the Greek authorities would show the same understanding as in Turkey if Ziraat Bank planned to acquire a bank in Greece.
NBG’s entry to the Turkish banking market and Ziraat Bank establishing a foothold in Greece have been critical tests in the face of fierce criticism over foreign ownership in both countries — traditionally described as “two antagonistic brothers of the Aegean Sea.” Along with NBG and Finansbank, Greece’s Eurobank EFG also owns 70 percent of Eurobank Tekfen in Turkey. Likewise, crisis-hit Greek banks have recently presented an attractive target for Turkish banks. Turkey’s leading private bank, İş Bankası, earlier voiced plans to enter the Greek market, but no progress has been made thus far.
Noting that the bank is interested in purchasing new banks in different countries, Çağlar said he doubts if Greece will be one of these markets. “We first opened a branch in a foreign market 46 years ago. Ziraat Bank has grown enough in terms of branches established abroad … now our priority when entering a new market will be buying a financial institution rather than opening a Ziraat Bank branch there.”
Meanwhile, the Ziraat head did reveal that studies have been finalized to open two branches in Kosovo, one in Prizren and the other in Pristina. Current Turkish banking law requires the permission of the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) for Turkish banks to open branches or representative offices, to strike partnerships or participate in partnerships abroad.