Istanbul Pushes Ahead With IPO Plan for $10 Billion Gas Grid

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Employees work in booths at the Borsa Istanbul SA stock exchange in Istanbul, Turkey, on Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. While they are growing more critical, the underlying tone of warnings from businesses has so far been supportive of the government in principle, showing there are limits to how much Turkey’s billionaires are feeling emboldened to speak out after elections in June increased President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s grip on power. Photographer: Ismail Ferdous/Bloomberg

Istanbul authorities are reviving a plan to privatize the city’s gas grid in what could be one of Turkey’s biggest ever initial public offerings.

An IPO of the Igdas gas grid is moving forward, according to Neslihan Vural, head of financial services at the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. She estimated the company could be valued as high as $10 billion once increased gas tariffs are approved. The government aims to gradually reduce its stake to less than 20% from more than 90% now, she added.

“I am pro-privatization,” Vural said. “The municipality should eventually return to pure municipal works.”

Igdas has long been the crown jewel of Istanbul’s privatization list, though an attempt at an initial public offering in the early 2010s failed. Now that Turkey’s opposition party has a majority on the Istanbul council, local officials see an opportunity to push ahead with fundraising plans to build infrastructure and strengthen their grip on the city. 

While a city council directive permitting the IPO still stands from the first attempt, there’s legal work to be done and the company’s charter must be adjusted before authorities can hire investment banks, Vural said. The company had revenue of 35.8 billion liras ($1.1 billion) in 2022. 

Among other potential stock listings are car-park operator Ispark, water bottler Hamidiye, bread maker Halk Ekmek and others, according to Vural. Ispark could come after Igdas, she said. 

Istanbul has a raft of projects that need funding. They include building a second waste-to-energy power plant, improving subway lines and buying 10,000 taxis to boost the current fleet by 50%, Vural said.

Election Flashpoint

Financing for Turkey’s big cities was a flashpoint in the March local elections. Ozgur Ozel, the head of the opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of withholding state cash as punishment for urban voters’ perceived disloyalty. The government denies the allegation.

Now, Treasury and Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek is seeking to restore confidence in the Turkish economy, holding international investor meetings to tout the nation’s return to more orthodox policies. Simsek signed off on Istanbul’s $715 million sale of unsecured green bonds in November and is expected to approve financing for four metro projects including a $925 million new line, Vural said. 

The municipality plans to raise €1 billion ($1.1 billion) this year by tapping capital markets and international financial institutions like the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and commercial banks, Vural said. 

As well as planning ESG-friendly bond sales, Istanbul aims to raise $225 million via an international debt offering. Under the deal, a special purpose vehicle set up by Bank of America Corp and London-based BancTrust Investment Bank Ltd. will provide a loan after selling bonds in foreign markets, Vural said.

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

By Ercan Ersoy


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