Turkey beats growth forecasts in 2017: data

Istanbul (Shutterstock)
Updated 29 March 2018

Turkey beats growth forecasts in 2017: data

ANKARA: Turkey posted surprisingly strong economic growth last year, official statistics showed Thursday, confirming the country’s status as one of the world’s fasted growing economies.
GDP growth came in at 7.4 percent in 2017 from the previous year, but even the strong figure did little to prop up the Turkish lira which has suffered from political concerns as well as worrying inflation and current account figures in recent months.
Thursday’s growth figure came in above the market consensus of 7.25 percent, but fell just short of a forecast by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who said in December he expected the economy to grow by 7.5 percent in 2017.
Growth was 3.2 percent in 2016 when a series of terror attacks and a July coup bid aimed at unseating Erdogan negatively affected the economy which only returned to strength last year.
In the fourth quarter alone the economy grew by 7.3 percent year-on-year, after a revised 11.3 percent increase in the third quarter.
Data from the Turkish Statistics Institute (TUIK) showed that growth was driven by the industrial, services and construction sectors.
Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci welcomed the “spectacular achievement” in a statement, saying that it meant Turkey now ranked first among the G20 economies.
One of Erdogan’s senior advisers Hatice Karahan said on Twitter that “sound government policies supported this success along with an improvement in confidence,” adding the focus would now be on reforms.
Meanwhile, London-based emerging markets economist Timothy Ash said in a note that the 7.4 percent figure “puts Turkey well at the top of the European growth stakes, and I guess in the same stratosphere as the likes of China and India.”
Turkey’s growth figure was higher than China’s of 6.9 percent for 2017.
Yet, the Turkish lira has lost over five percent of its value against the dollar since January.
In late morning Thursday, the currency was steady against the greenback on the day, at 4.00.
Inflation last month was at 10.26 percent, which is double the Turkish central bank’s target.
William Jackson, senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics in London, said last week in a note that the lira’s sharp decline earlier in March “reinforced concerns about the risks posed by the widening current account deficit.”
Economists have also raised concerns about overheating in the economy and the sustainability of the fast pace of growth.

Cirque du Soleil walks a tightrope through pandemic

Updated 06 June 2020

Cirque du Soleil walks a tightrope through pandemic

  • Suitors wage backstage battle to rescue debt-stricken Canadian circus icon
  • Among the potential bidders is former fire eater Guy Laliberte, who fouded the acrobatic troupe in 1984

MONTREAL: Its shows canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an already heavily indebted Cirque du Soleil’s fight for survival has invited an intense backstage battle to try to save the Canadian cultural icon.

High on a list of potential suitors is former fire eater Guy Laliberte, who founded the acrobatic troupe in 1984 but later sold it.

“Its revival will have to be done at the right price. And not at all costs,” said the 60-year-old, determined not to see his creation sold to private interests.

The billionaire clown said after “careful consideration,” he decided “with a great team” to pursue a bid, but offered no details.

Under his leadership, the Cirque had set up big tops in more than 300 cities around the world, delighting audiences with contemporary circus acts set to music but without the usual trappings of lions, elephants and bears.

Then the pandemic hit, forcing the company in March to cancel 44 shows worldwide, from Las Vegas to Tel Aviv, Moscow to Melbourne, and lay off 4,679 acrobats and technicians, or 95 percent of its workforce.

Hurtling toward bankruptcy, the global entertainment giant and pride of Canada commissioned a bank in early May to examine its options, including a possible sale.

Meanwhile, shareholders ponied up $50 million in bridge financing for its “short-term liquidity needs.”

Laliberte, the first clown to rocket to the International Space Station in 2009, ceded control of the Cirque for $1 billion in 2015.

It has since fallen into the hands of American investment firm TPG Capital (55 percent stake) and China’s Fosun (25 percent), which also owns Club Med and Thomas Cook travel. The Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec (CDPQ) retains the last 20 percent.

The institutional investor, which manages public pension plans and insurance programs in Quebec, bought Laliberte’s last remaining 10 percent stake in the business in February, just before the pandemic.

Since 2015, the Cirque has embarked on costly acquisitions and renovations of permanent performance halls, while its creative spirit waned, according to critics in the Quebec press.

Meanwhile, it piled on more than $1 billion in debt.

Fearing that the Cirque would be “sold to foreign interests,” the Quebec government recently offered it a conditional loan of $200 million to help relaunch its shows as restrictions on large gatherings start to be eased worldwide.

But the agreement in principle is conditional on the Cirque headquarters remaining in Montreal and the province being allowed to buy US and Chinese stakes in the company at an unspecified time in the future, “at market value” and with “probably a local partner,” said Quebec Minister of the Economy Pierre Fitzgibbon.

“The state does not want to operate the circus, but the circus is too important to Quebec (to leave it to foreigners),” he said.

In addition to Laliberte, other prospective buyers include Quebecor, the telecoms and media giant of tycoon Pierre Karl Peladeau, whose opening lowball bid was outright rejected.

“It is essentially the value and reputation of the brand” that has piqued interest in the company, says Michel Magnan, corporate governance chair at Concordia University in Montreal.

But “as long as there are restrictions on gatherings of people, the future is not very rosy” for the Cirque, he said.

Several challenges await, according to Magnan.

“There were a lot of people working in all of these shows. Where are they now? What are they doing? How are they doing? In what shape are they, what state of mind?” he said.

“The more time passes, the more this expertise risks evaporating.”

Small consolation: The Cirque resumed its performances on Wednesday in Hangzhou, China, five months after a coronavirus outbreak in the city.