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.

Turkish Banks: Solvent but Illiquid?

One of the major roles of banks is to channel funds from savings into valuable projects. In doing so, banks engage in liquidity and maturity transformation, since they finance long-term, illiquid project while funding themselves with short-term, liquid abilities. By performing this important role, banks expose themselves to the risk of runs.

Turkish banks have become far more active in the international loan markets, giving international banks exposure to the both financial institution sector. But with huge due to come, some question whether there is enough liquidity as the end of zero interest rate policy world approaches.

This is what I noted on Jan 6, 2014.

…I firstly intent to demonstrate how the short-term foreign debt exposure became clearly frightening compared to the usable reserves, just like it was in South Korea.

Turkey - Short-Term Foreign Debt and FX Reserves

Thanks to zero-rate interest policy world, the path for banks in emerging markets to borrow abroad in a convenient way was built by Ben Bernanke and Mario Draghi. Turkish banks were among beneficiaries as well. Banks in Turkey has a giant stock of short-term external debt now with a strong trend starting from 2010. So how about the liquidity in the banking system?

Turkey - Liquidity Adequacy Ratios of Banks

The chart above show the assets to liabilities ratios that both mature in one month, three months and twelve months, respectively. According to the Basel Accord application run by Banking Watchdog (BRSA) the ratio must be over 100 and it looks like that the financial institutions in Turkey are getting closer to the lower limit…

Needless to say, external financing is crucial for Turkish banking universe to be more stable. At this stage, rollover ratios gain importance. The ratio which is around %205, is expected to lower over the first half of 2014 as foreign creditors refuse to roll over their claims.

Turkish Banks - Short-Term Foreign Debt to Total Assets

Following the massive rate hike by Turkish Central Bank, rising cost of funding and deteriorating loan books both may hurt Turkish banks with loss of funding and low asset returns.

The chart above indicates that short-term external debt of to total assets ratio in Turkish banks that climbed to 11% at the end of 2013 from 5% in the beginning of 2010. That means that for the last years there has not been an substantial increase in total assets of Turkish banks despite the strong pace of the external borrowing, which might be translated as the stock of the external debt has enlarged because of the economy lacking domestic savings.

Also some words from Standard & Poor’s picturing the asset quality:

Consumer loans have expanded the fastest and, in our view, demonstrate the highest credit risk vulnerability in Turkey, particularly to the potential of an economic slowdown and the associated increase in unemployment. The low amount of problem credit card loans is somewhat misleading, as borrowers tend to refinance card loans with consumer loans that carry lower interest rates. This explains the more pronounced rise in problem consumer loans.

and read the related post to find out how banks matter to the economy and to the stock market.