Qatar to buy stake in Istanbul stock exchange

Qatar has agreed to buy a stake in Istanbul’s stock exchange in one of several deals that reaffirm the wealthy Gulf nation’s status as one of Ankara’s most important financial backers at a time when Turkey’s economy is under strain.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Khalifa, Qatar’s emir, used a visit to Ankara on Thursday to announce that the Qatar Investment Authority, the country’s sovereign wealth fund, would buy a 10 per cent share in Borsa Istanbul from Turkey’s own wealth fund for an undisclosed sum.

The QIA also agreed to buy a stake in a luxury Istanbul shopping centre from the troubled Turkish conglomerate Dogus Holding. Dogus, which has been forced to restructure loans worth billions of dollars and sell assets after a sharp drop in the value of the Turkish lira in recent years, will receive around $300m for the 30 per cent stake, according to Bloomberg.

Although the value of the deals is relatively small, they offer a boost to Turkey at a time when the country is suffering from dwindling foreign direct investment. FDI fell to $5.6bn last year, its lowest level in 15 years, around 10 per cent of which came from Qatar.

Writing on Twitter, Sheikh Tamim said the agreements would consolidate the “growing partnership” between Qatar and Turkey. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish president, said the two countries would continue to strengthen their “unbreakable” bond.

Sheikh Tamim and Mr Erdogan have forged a close friendship in recent years.

Ankara sent military support to Qatar in 2017 in a show of support after its Gulf neighbours imposed a punishing air, land and sea blockade on the emirate. Doha has returned the favour multiple times, coming to the rescue of Turkey at times of financial strain. 

In 2018, in the midst of a severe currency crisis, Doha promised to invest $15bn in Turkey. While little direct investment has materialised, the announcement was viewed as an important show of support, and Qatar also bolstered Turkey’s dwindling foreign currency reserves through a swap agreement worth $5bn.

This year, as a fresh slide in the lira and the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic placed renewed pressure on Turkey’s $750bn economy, Doha expanded its support for the central bank’s coffers to $15bn.

The alliance between Qatar and Turkey has strengthened as regional rivalries have escalated, with Doha and Ankara in the opposing camp to the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Thursday’s agreements also included commitments to increase co-operation between several of the two countries’ ministries and a deal to buy a Turkish port.

QTerminals, a partly state-owned Qatari port operator, signed a $140m deal to buy a terminal in Turkey’s Mediterranean province of Antalya from Global Ports Holding, which is part-listed on the London Stock Exchange.

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