As Western Investors Flee Turkey, Islamic Bonds Gain Popularity

Article Summary
Interest-free Islamic bonds, or sukuk, represent $1.2 trillion of investments from the Gulf region. These instruments are gaining popularity in Turkey, which is currently losing Western investors. Turkey's relative stability, compared with Europe, makes it an attractive destination for Arab investors.

Last year, the chairman of the Turkish Capital Markets Board announced that arrangements were being made to attract capital from Gulf countries through sukuk, interest-free Islamic bonds. Payments to Islamic-bond holders are made under a guise other than interest. According to Shari’a law, payments are made against produce, irrigation or forestation. One researcher estimates that today in the Gulf, approximately $1.2 trillion is invested through these types of interest-free financial tools.

According to Dr. Bulent Goktuna, CEO of Mineks International Capital and Investment Company, sukuk will a have prominent place in [the Turkish economy] in coming years. Goktuna says that this year, investments from the West will decrease substantially. Europe and the US are attempting to address their [financial] crises and investors there are accordingly extremely prudent when investing abroad. Moreover, American credit agencies have imposed many conditions that make life difficult for those interested in investing in Turkey. Therefore -- at least for a while -- Turkey will not be a priority target for Western investors. However, for cash-rich Arab countries, the crisis in Europe will make Turkey an increasingly attractive investment destination.

In order to secure his share of this new wave of investments, Goktuna has found partners in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. He is now busy setting up a sukuk-based financial firm worth $2 billion. He is planning to adapt the sukuk model used by Turkish banks for various industrial sectors, and is planning to buy shares in the energy sector --  particularly in electricity companies. Goktuna has been working with Arab investors for 30 years and says they never enter into bidding, have difficulty making decisions and can be persuaded only by high-ranking contacts. [Goktuna] expects Arab investors to show interest in logistics, health and agricultural projects. 

Found in: turkish economy, sukuk, islamic banking, banking & finance, banking

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