Turkey: Life After Coup Attempt

On July 15, there was a strategically inept and thankfully failed coup attempt in Turkey, which, in fact, was destined for failure and would lead nothing but a civil war. It was that latest mishap in a long series of political events, and is now being followed by a purge of civil servant linked to the Gulen movement which is widely believed to have plotted the military intervention and a state of emergency that is expected to last 3 months at most. Given the death toll over 240 only in hours, Turkey had a narrow escape from clashes that would lead huge losses.

With broad strokes, political implications will be much bigger deal than economic ones. First, even if it had significant flaws, Turkey’s democracy has always appeared to be immortal, however, we here had a completely unexpected coup attempt. Though, the democracy is still alive in Turkey, but the political landscape is worsened. The government should clean up the public sphere as quick as possible. And another thing is that the issue of Gulen’s extradition may have the potential to create significant tension between Turkey and the U.S., and it could also affect Turkey’s relationship with NATO. However, we do not see a radical shift in Turkish foreign policy at that point. Remember that Turkey already was in a re-approachment process with Russia and Israel that had been extremely well-received by the market.

Noting that politics will continue to be a main source of volatility, the economy will remain relatively resilient with growth rate around 3% but investor sentiment will surely stay fragile, not just because of Turkey-specific factors but due to weaker capital flows to emerging economies across the board.

Meanwhile Turkey received a rate cut from S&P following the coup attempt. Turkey did not have an investment grade at S&P (while it had Moody’s and Fitch) and saw its rating being dropped by one notch from BB+ to BB. The cut was primarily due to polarization of Turkey’s political landscape eroding its institutional checks and balances and heightened unpredictability that could constrain capital inflows into Turkey’s externally leveraged economy, according to the agency. The rating action came under heavy criticism for being premature. We believe that analyst comments were justified given a comparison with South Africa which is rated BBB-. More surprisingly, S&P upgraded its outlook for Turkey in the days following the Davutoglu’s oust which also kicked up a dust at the top of the state. Also note that S&P, in fact, upgraded its outlook for Turkey and now foresees a 50 basis point higher growth in USD nominal terms for 2019, but a higher net external liabilities to current account receipts. The changes in S&P estimates are given below.

S&P - Turkey Estimates

Going forward, the key incremental risk for the economy will be declining tourism revenues and higher oil prices that would weigh on the country’s current account balance widening the deficit. As a result, we might see a weaker local currency. We predicted that USDTRY exchange rate would average 3.00 this year, suggesting a depreciation around 10%. Lira hitting 3.20 versus the US dollar were also in our baseline scenario, so we do not consider the current valuations in the FX market as a sign of shock. We also estimate bond yields going higher as core inflation will see a pick-up in the coming months.

In equities, we saw a sharp sell-off as expected but now there seems to be a potential value play. In banking space, we still consider Akbank as the most attractive stock but more importantly, there are screaming buying opportunities in industrial stocks from a historical view of multiples.

Overall, risks for the Turkish economy in a medium-term perspective has not risen significantly following the coup attempt. Turkey’s investment grade might be at risk while even ratings of the foreign companies with exposure to Turkey are under scrutiny. This would lead bond funds with their fingers on the sell key. Note that should the government uses this as a chance to reconcile public divisions, Turkey even would obtain an upgrade. Thus, a wait-and-see mentality on Turkish debt market should continue. Equities trade cheap (<8x) relative to its own history and, especially, versus GEMs >12x, on the earnings multiple. Note that capital market regulator paved the way for buybacks that should also unlock more value for shareholders.

Disclosure: The author has no positions in any stocks mentioned, but plans to initiate positions within the next 72 hours.

Iran: Deserves A Closer Look

After seven years of international sanctions, Iran is once again open for business. The end of sanctions is a lifesaver for the economy as billions of dollars’ worth of frozen Iranian assets were released. In addition, years of isolation and a lack of investment have severely affected the economy and specifically natural resources infrastructure which now requires strong injections of fresh capital. At this stage, many investors started to look at Iran to invest in since the country in a kind of way provides a win-win story. While the isolated-for-years country is about to be reintegrated into the global economy, talking about the unnoticed structure of the economy may come in useful.

Firstly, the chart above shows Iran’s GDP composition by sectors. The share of oil and gas has absolutely been lower in the recent years, as services has become more important. The biggest contribution to the services industry has come from transportation & communication and real estate services (10-year compound annual growth rates were 10.6% and 6.5%, respectively). On the industrial side, mining was the business area which posted the highest growth (10Y CAGR was 10.6%).

Iran - GDP - Composition By SectorEnlightening the potential of Iran’s natural resources which may attract capital, Iran is #1 in proven natural gas reserves (1,187 cubic feet and #4 in proven oil reserves (157 billion barrels) and #1 in proven reserves of zinc, #2 in Copper, #9 in Iron Ore and plentiful gold, lead, and many other minerals estimated at representing over 7% of the world’s mineral reserves.

Analyzing the main components of GDP, my key takeaways are the strong household consumption that contributed to the national income even in the recession period, and the low government spending that remained very low in absolute terms, highlighting Iranian fiscal policy is remarkably non-populist and predictable. Investments, however, was highly macro-sensitive and played an important role for the total income. That said, changes in inventories shown in the chart below with unfilled bars also have tipped the balance on growth. In the sanctions era, we have seen the annual inflation rising up to a record level of 45% but fortunately lowered slightly above 10% thereafter. With average deposits rates around 17% Iran simply returns the value to investors, and the central bank is primarily pursing the goal of price stability with keeping the real interest rates high.

Iran - GDP - by ExpendituresTo fill an important blink about the Iranian consumption, Iranian people have remarkable increased their spending on education, communication, healthcare and housing. With such a solid consumption track record, these would be areas where investors should be looking for long-term plays in my view. Also note that household indebtness is significantly low in the country which now has room for growth. We therefore will see high business volume growth in the financial services over the next years. A lesser known fact is that tourism potential of Iran, mainly driven by many historically important sites. You may ski in the North or enjoy golden sandy beaches in the South.

After painting a rosy picture about Iran, this is where I should investors about the corporate governance standards in the country. Iran ranked 130th among 167 countries in the Corruption Perception Index released by Transparency International in which countries listed from least corrupted to the most in an ascending order. Considering that Iran was one of the worst business environments in a business ethics perspective, the government is making progress in fighting pervasive corruption in Iran. Additionally, the complicated legal system is among the risks investors have to keep in mind before entering the market.

The below is a list of top traded stock listed in Tehran Stock Exchange where the total market cap reaches up to $170 billion. However, due to the above-mentioned risks, as ever it is in frontier markets, debt is currently a better investment than equity in Iran.

Iram - Top Stocks by Market CapWith the removal of the sanctions, Turkey and Iran not have the opportunity to expand positive aspects of their relationship. Despite the fact that two countries confront each other over Syria, the economic collaboration will ultimately strengthen over the upcoming period. Turkey will have a lot to benefit from Iran’s huge commercial market but also will face fierce competition in some areas including cement industry.

Turkey’s Gubretas (BIST:GUBRF), a fertilizer producer, recently appeared to be the top pick of investors who bet on Iran’s opening gates to the world in Turkish market. Gubretas owns 48.8% of an Iranian company, Razi Petrochemicals, which generates almost half of the total revenue. With domestic catalysts which include the impact of the removal of VAT on fertilizers, Gubretas has a positive outlook. However, risks related to the corporate governance need to be mentioned here again, since I do not believe the stock is not a buy under the current circumstances.