Turkey’s banks said to shy away from Erdogan’s ‘crazy’ canal

Turkey’s banks said to shy away from Erdogan’s ‘crazy’ canal
People wait in line to submit their petitions opposing a massive canal project in Istanbul, Turkey, Dec, 27, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 27 April 2021

Turkey’s banks said to shy away from Erdogan’s ‘crazy’ canal

Turkey’s banks said to shy away from Erdogan’s ‘crazy’ canal
  • Russia has signaled unease about the project
  • Cost of canal would eclipse other mega projects

ISTANBUL: Some of Turkey’s biggest banks are reluctant to finance President Tayyip Erdogan’s planned Istanbul canal due to environmental concerns and the investment risks hanging over the massive construction project, four senior bankers told Reuters.
Two of the sources said a global sustainability pact that six of Turkey’s top banks have signed was a barrier to funding the Kanal Istanbul, which Erdogan dubbed his “crazy project” when he floated it a decade ago.
The government expects to break ground in June on the canal, which would connect the Black Sea to the north with the Marmara Sea to the south, running 45 km (28 miles) through marshland, farms and towns on the western edge of the city.
Erdogan says the canal would protect the Bosphorus Strait, which runs through the heart of Istanbul, by diverting traffic.
Yet Istanbul’s mayor, engineers and, according to one poll, most citizens, oppose the project on enviromental grounds, saying it would destroy a marine ecosystem and resources that supply almost a third of the city’s fresh water.
Russia, meanwhile, has signaled unease about the project on security grounds as the canal would open a second passage to the Black Sea, which is home to a Russian naval fleet.
“I don’t think we can take part in the funding of Kanal Istanbul,” said a senior banker who requested anonymity. “It may trigger some environmental issues.”
Six Turkish banks, including Garanti Bank, Is Bank and Yapi Kredi, have signed the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Banking framework which calls on signatories to avoid harming people and the planet.
“Definitely we don’t want to give a loan to this kind of project because of the environmental issues,” a second senior banker told Reuters, adding that signatory banks must abide by the UN-backed sustainability pact.
In 2019, the canal’s price tag was estimated at 75 million lira — or $13 billion at the time — in a government report.
The reluctance of some Turkish lenders to finance the project makes it more likely state and foreign financing will have to play a bigger role for Erdogan’s dream to come true.
A Finance Ministry spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Asked whether Turkish banks would participate in the financing, Erdogan’s spokesman and adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, told Reuters the project would “certainly” attract investors and creditors when tenders are held soon.
Garanti Bank declined to comment. Is Bank and Yapi Kredi did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Denizbank and state-owned Vakifbank also declined to comment on the canal’s financing while Akbank and state lenders Halkbank and Ziraat Bank did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The cost of the canal would eclipse other mega projects such as Istanbul’s vast new airport that have defined Erdogan’s legacy of credit-driven growth.
Massive foreign short-term debt worth some $150 billion for banks and companies has dogged the lira and laid bare the risks of Turkey’s depleted foreign exchange reserves.
A currency crisis in 2018 delayed the canal project but it is back on the agenda as the economy rebounds from the pandemic and the government approved development plans last month.
In an interview on Sunday, Erdogan’s adviser Kalin said there was already interest in the bidding that would be open to all including Turkish, European, American and Chinese firms.
“It’s a profitable project ... and we are positive it will move forward,” he told Reuters.
But for most of Turkey’s banks, especially lenders with European backers and those involved in loan syndications, the risks would likely be too high, the sources said.
They said taking on such a large project could limit their capacity to carry out further loan syndications while there was also a risk the project could be torpedoed at a later stage.
“No Turkish bank, neither state nor private, could take that risk,” said a former senior banker.
Turkey’s environment ministry has carried out environmental assessments which cleared the way for the project to proceed.
But European backers of Turkish banks would probably not see a Turkish environmental stamp of approval as credible, the former banker said.
“This is one of those white elephants. Other than land price speculation, it is hard to see any value in it,” he said.
The canal would destroy a marine ecosystem and basins that provide nearly a third of Istanbul’s fresh water, according to the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects.
Moscow is concerned the canal might not be covered by the Montreux Convention that restricts foreign warships’ access to the Black Sea through the Bosphorus Strait.
A Turkish official said in 2019 that the new canal would not be covered by the convention, which dates back to 1936.
This month, amid a build-up of Russia’s navy near Ukraine, the Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin told Erdogan on a call that the convention must be observed.
A fourth banker also said that given opposition parties oppose the project, construction could halt if Erdogan’s ruling AK Party is ousted. Presidential elections are set for 2023.
“The size of the project is tremendously big. It has reputational risks and loan risk,” the person said. “It also still seems like government’s pet project.”


Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law

Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law
Updated 7 sec ago

Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law

Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law

RIYADH: Saudi Cabinet on Tuesday approved raising the penalty for violating the Finance Companies Law to not more than SR2 million ($0.53 million), the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Following the amendment, the penalty shall be SR2 million or 10 percent of the value of finance to which the violation was carried out, or imprisonment for a period of not more than two years, or one of those two penalties.


Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report

Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report
Updated 9 min 31 sec ago

Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report

Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report

A report from Bank of America has warned reaching net zero will cost the global economy $5 trillion annually for the next 30 years.

On the eve of the UN’s COP26 environmental conference in Scotland this month, where countries who signed the 2015 Paris Agreement to reduce carbon emissions will review their progress and outline policies to achieve net zero by 2050, the report offers a stark reminder of the cost of transitioning to greener energy.

However, the report also warned that failing to address climate change could lead to the loss of 3 percent of global gross domestic product annually this decade, amounting to around $69 trillion by the end of this century.

A key priority at COP26 is for governments to agree on specific cash-backed policies that will accelerate the transition toward net zero, including a commitment to phase out the use of coal, sharply reduce deforestation, speed up the transition to electric vehicles and green heating systems, and implement fiscal measures to encourage increased investment in renewable energy.

In addition, the summit, which is taking place in Scotland’s former industrial heartland of Glasgow, will also attempt to get western governments to make good the $20 billion a year shortfall in helping emerging nations transition to greener energy.

Developed nations had agreed to provide $100 billion per year to emerging nations. Not only have they fallen short on that commitment, but the UN wants agreement in Glasgow to increase that funding further.

The UN Environment Programme estimates the cost of transition in emerging countries will reach $140-300 billion by 2030, and $280-500 billion by 2050. San Francisco based think tank, the Climate Policy Initiative, estimates Africa on its own may require up to $3 trillion by the end of this decade.

Against this backdrop, Bank of America estimates the total cost of transitioning will be $150 trillion, at least four times the amount that global COVID-19 stimulus packages are forecast to cost governments this decade.

The report states financing the trillions of dollars of investment needed for net zero will require “significant changes in capital allocation.”

As Arab News reported last week, the World Resources Institute said G20 countries still account for 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, a report by Moody’s Investors Service revealed financial institutions in the G20 were carrying almost $22 trillion of exposure to carbon-intensive sectors.

However, Bank of America said the use of labelled bonds and loans to address environmental issues is expanding rapidly.

It is forecasting more than $1 trillion in labeled bond issuance this year, with $900 billion in green, social and sustainability bonds and a further $100 billion in sustainability-linked bonds.

The report adds that labeled bonds already account for more than 20 percent of European high grade and European high yield issuance for corporates this year, driven by environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns and EU regulations, more than twice the rate in 2020.

However, while the report is bullish about the ability of Western governments to pay for greening the planet, the report notes that while around 50 countries, along with the EU — which between them account for almost 75 percent of CO2 emissions — have committed to reaching net zero, only 10 countries have so far enshrined that commitment in legislation.

The report adds while a number of the countries have pledged to long-term targets, centered on 2050 or the end of the century, they have failed to make 2030 commitments in line with the Paris Agreement.

The good news? Well, Bank of America’s cost estimate is considerably lower than an earlier forecast, published in the summer, by BloombergNEF’s closely watched New Energy Outlook, which put the figure at $173 trillion, of $5.8 trillion annually.

Progress of sorts as the world heads to Glasgow. 


Saudi-Moroccan Business Council to hold expo in Jeddah


Saudi-Moroccan Business Council to hold expo in Jeddah

Updated 19 min 22 sec ago

Saudi-Moroccan Business Council to hold expo in Jeddah


Saudi-Moroccan Business Council to hold expo in Jeddah


RIYADH: The Saudi-Moroccan Business Council on Tuesday signed four memorandums of understanding to strengthen partnership in tourism, electricity, renewable energy, logistics and food sectors.

The council also revealed plans to launch the “Two Kingdom’s Forum and Exhibition” in Jeddah in the first quarter of 2022.

Ali Al-Yami, head of the council, said a list of participating companies is being prepared.


Saudi Arabia launches project to promote algae industry

Saudi Arabia launches project to promote algae industry
Updated 52 min 43 sec ago

Saudi Arabia launches project to promote algae industry

Saudi Arabia launches project to promote algae industry

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Fisheries Development Program on Tuesday launched a project to develop commercial algae technology and promote localization of the algae industry in the Kingdom.

The fisheries development program comes under the purview of the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture. 

Ali Al-Shaikhi, the CEO of the program, said the project aims to promote the algae industry in the Kingdom and in order to do so the first commercial model for the cultivation of algae will be established in 2022. 

Al-Shaikhi said plans are also underway to establish an algae center in the Kingdom.


Saudi Arabia issues $2.27bn in domestic sukuk

Saudi Arabia issues $2.27bn in domestic sukuk
Updated 19 October 2021

Saudi Arabia issues $2.27bn in domestic sukuk

Saudi Arabia issues $2.27bn in domestic sukuk

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia issued SR8.5 billion($2.27 billion) in domestic sukuk for the month of October, the National Debt Management Center said on Tuesday.

The Islamic bonds were split into two tranches: SR3.905 billion  due in 2029, and another of SR4.595 billion due in 2033.