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Turkey Seeks to Reassure Investors Over Protests

Residential towers are seen next to the newly built Mimar Sinan mosque in Atasehir on the Asian side of Istanbul in this September 4, 2012 file photo.
Turkey's president and the country's international trade group sought to reassure foreign investors that the days of violent anti-government protests should not scare away multinational firms.

Turkey's location as a gateway between Asia and Europe and its young, skilled, talent pool have attracted a growing number of multinationals to place their regional headquarters there, contributing to the economy's “tiger” status.

Groups including Unilever, Ford and chemicals company BASF said they were watching the situation closely as the protests ran into their fifth day.

Bahadir Kaleagasi, an international coordinator for the Turkish Industry & Business Association (TUSIAD), told Reuters he had met representatives from multinational corporations on Wednesday to try to reassure them about the problems.

Refusing to name the companies, Kaleagasi said foreign investors were in the short term concerned about the impact it would have on their business.

“Companies are concerned about the short term effects - of hot money outflows for example,” he told Reuters.

People line in front of automated teller machines (ATMs) in Hatay, May 17, 2013.
People line in front of automated teller machines (ATMs) in Hatay, May 17, 2013.
“But they are unanimous in remaining confident in Turkey while continuing to monitor the situation. They are cautiously optimistic,” he said, adding that 19 companies had voiced this sentiment during the meeting.

Turkey's President Abdullah Gul, after a meeting the head of Vodafone Turkey who is also the chairwoman of the International Investors Association (YASED), said on Tuesday that the country had implemented radical reforms.

“It is time that we carry the country to a much better level in all areas,” he said after meeting with Vodafone's Serpil Timuray.

A third of multinational companies in Turkey use the country as their regional headquarters, according to a survey by YASED and contribute to the country's $786 billion GDP in 2012.

“The safety of our employees has a high priority at BASF,” a spokeswoman said. “So we observe the situation carefully. Until now there is no impact on BASF in Turkey.”

Retailers such as Sweden's H&M and Britain's Marks & Spencer, have stores in the heart of Istanbul, which has seen the biggest demonstrations, but have said their operations have not so far been affected.

Car manufacturers such as Ford, Hyundai and Daimler have said that it has been business as usual.

“The protests ongoing in our country have nothing to do with our plant in Istanbul. That is a public reaction which is political,” said a representative of Mercedes-Benz in Turkey which is owned by Daimler.

Garanti Bank, Turkey's third-biggest lender, said on Tuesday a small number of its customers had canceled credit cards and withdrawn savings in protest at a sister media company's coverage of anti-government demonstrations.

Dogus Holding, which owns a major stake in Garanti, also controls the NTV television station, which has angered the protesters with its coverage.