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Banking Industry Country Risk Assessment: Turkey

Publication date: 01-May-2012 11:23:51 EDT

Major Factors

  • Relatively moderate household and corporate indebtedness.
  • Bank regulation, supervision, and governance that compare favorably with those of many emerging economies.
  • Stable banking industry with adequate ability to price risk.
  • Low level of wealth and high, persistent structural imbalances in the economy that render banks vulnerable to external shocks.
  • Vulnerable external position and large current account deficit.
  • Tightening systemwide funding because of low savings, an underdeveloped debt market, and rapid loan growth.


The banking sector of the Republic of Turkey (foreign currency BB/Stable/B; local currency BBB-/Stable/A-3; Turkey national scale trAA+/--/trA-1) is in Banking Industry Country Risk Assessment (BICRA) group '5'. Our criteria define the BICRA framework as one "designed to evaluate and compare global banking systems." A BICRA analysis for a country covers rated and unrated financial institutions that take deposits, extend credit, or engage in both activities. A BICRA is scored on a scale from '1' to '10', ranging from the lowest-risk banking systems (group '1') to the highest-risk (group '10'). Other countries in BICRA group '5' include China, India, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates.

Our economic risk score of '6' reflects our opinion that Turkey has "high risk" in "economic resilience" and "economic imbalances," and "intermediate risk" for "credit risk in the economy," as our criteria define those terms. Turkey has a large and well-diversified economy. However, the level of wealth is moderate and growth has historically been volatile, sensitive to investment and funding flows from abroad. The inflation rate is higher than in most peer countries, and the export-oriented private sector is vulnerable to external market dynamics.

Turkey has big structural imbalances and a volatile equity market. Net external debt remains relatively high and, coupled with recurring large current account deficits, increases the economy's dependence on portfolio flows (foreign sales or purchases of financial assets); foreign direct investment into companies; and cross-border bank borrowings.

We base our assessment of Turkey's credit risk in the economy on the country's relatively low household and corporate debt. One characteristic is the low proportion of housing loans in the system as a share of GDP. We consider that banks have adequate lending and underwriting standards, as well as diversified loan books with little exposure to cyclical sectors.

Our industry risk score of '5' factors in our view that the country faces "intermediate risk" in its "institutional framework" and "competitive dynamics," and "high risk" in "systemwide funding."

In our view, Turkey has improved its institutional framework significantly since the country's economic and financial crisis in 2001, and continues to bring regulations increasingly in line with international standards. While the regulator's track record is short, it has taken a more proactive and prudent stance toward the industry, compared with prior regulatory underperformance. This has resulted in better systemwide transparency and corporate governance practices. In addition, some of the system's weakest banks are out of business, after the failure or takeover of about one-third of the total number of banks in the country in 2001.

Our assessment of Turkey's "competitive dynamics" combines our view of the industry's moderate risk appetite and adequate pricing power. Earnings benefit from strong margins, particularly in the retail segment, and cost of risk has remained manageable in the recent downturn. Banks do not offer high-risk or complex products to their clients. The industry has largely stabilized, in our view, and several large players now dominate the market. While state-owned banks still account for about one-quarter of the market, we do not believe this hinders the industry's stability.

"Systemwide funding" remains a weakness for Turkish banks, in our view. Banks are mainly funded by customer deposits, which however result in asset-liability mismatches because of their short-term nature. Funding from abroad sharply increased in 2010 and 2011, but remains limited compared with that of peers. Domestic debt markets remain underdeveloped, and until recently the private-sector and banks were long crowded out by the high borrowing needs of the sovereign.

We classify the Turkish government as "supportive" toward the domestic banking system. We recognize the government's long track record of providing extraordinary support to the banking system in times of stress.

Chart 1

BICRA Overview

Under our bank criteria, we use our BICRA economic risk and industry risk scores to determine a bank's anchor, the starting point in assigning an issuer credit rating. Our anchor for a commercial bank operating in Turkey is 'bbb-', based on an economic risk score of '6' and an industry risk score of '5'. Our view of economic risk reflects Turkey's low level of wealth, economic volatility, and structural imbalances, such as its high current account deficit and net external debt that expose the financial system and the economy to external shocks. We view positively the country's relatively moderate household and corporate indebtedness. Our view of industry risk takes into account the country's overall adequate institutional framework, including increasingly more proactive regulations and supervision. The industry structure has largely stabilized, in our view, and benefits from adequate pricing. Nevertheless, banks' generally short-term customer deposit bases and the underdeveloped domestic debt market accentuate funding risks.

Economic Risk: 6

The economic risk score for Turkey is '6', based on our assessment, under our BICRA criteria, of three main factors: economic resilience, economic imbalances, and credit risk in the economy.

Economic resilience: High risk

We assess Turkey's economic resilience as high mainly because of its modest income levels, volatile economic growth rates, and inflation that is higher than that of its peers. However, the country features low public sector debt and monetary policy flexibility under a floating exchange rate regime.

Economic structure and stability.  Turkey's moderate level of wealth is the main reason we assess economic resilience as high risk. While Turkey has a large and diversified economy, GDP per capita is low, at about $9,840 in 2011. This reflects low productivity and labor participation rates, especially among women.

The Turkish economy is well integrated with the rest of the world economy owing to its export-oriented manufacturing industry. However, growth is volatile and vulnerable to the economic dynamics of its main trading partners, and we expect this trend to continue. That's because domestic demand, particularly via import-intensive private consumption, was the main contributor to the rapid GDP growth of the past two years.

Macroeconomic policy flexibility.  Our assessment of the flexibility of Turkey's macroeconomic policy is a neutral factor for our assessment of economic resilience. The country's effective policymaking and monetary policy flexibility support the economy. The floating exchange rate regime works as a channel of nominal adjustment. Restrained fiscal policy before the global financial crisis led to relatively moderate net general government debt of 37% of GDP at year-end 2011. Indeed, during 2010 and 2011, the Turkish central government was a net payer of external debt (and is likely to repay all debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by February 2013). The crowding-out stemming from the high borrowing needs of the government lessened, and the authorities paved the way in 2010 for domestic banks to issue local currency bonds. During the last decade, the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey (CBRT) slashed the official policy rate to historic lows. As a result, real interest rates (the difference between 12-month inflation forecasts and 12-month deposit rates) fell to their lowest point since before the 2001 crisis. However, real rates remain high relative to most developed economies. We also note that the CBRT's somewhat wide interest rate corridor hinder banks' pricing abilities.

Chart 2

Political risk.   This factor is neutral in our assessment of economic resilience. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a third consecutive term in the June 2011 general election, further strengthening its position in the parliament. AKP has a comfortable majority in the government to be able to push through most legislative changes, but lack incentives. Two key challenges for the government remain the constitutional reform and Kurdish issue.

Table 1

Turkey: Economic Resilience
--Year ended Dec. 31--
(%) 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011e
Nominal GDP (bil. $) 647 730 615 731 773
Per capita GDP ($) 8708 9692 8043 9437 9841
Real GDP growth 4.7 0.7 (4.8) 9.2 8.5
Inflation rate (CPI) 8.8 10.4 6.3 8.6 11.1
Change in general government debt as % of GDP (1.4) 5.2 6.5 2.9 3.5
Net general government debt as % of GDP 36.0 37.0 42.5 40.0 37.0
e--Estimated. CPI--Consumer Price Index. N.A.--Not available. Source: Standard & Poor's Financial Institutions Ratings.
Economic imbalances: High risk

This factor focuses on imbalances, such as its credit-fueled asset price bubbles and persistently lopsided current account flows, which affect financial institutions.

Expansionary phase.  After a sharp contraction in 2009 (4.8% in real terms), the Turkish economy bounced back with real GDP growth of 9.2% in 2010 and 8.5% in 2011. Although Turkey's impressive performance is likely to moderate in the coming years, we believe the country remains in an expansionary phase. We expect GDP growth to slow to about 2.0%.

Private-sector credit growth.  Rapid loan growth over recent years mainly accounts for our assessment of economic imbalances as high risk. We project that domestic credit growth will continue to surpass GDP growth, but by a smaller margin than in 2010 and 2011. Indeed, loans grew 34% and 30% in these two years, notably owing to strong domestic demand. We expect credit growth to remain at about 10%-15% in 2012 owing to two factors. First, the credit boom of past two years reduced the sector's regulatory capital adequacy ratio, which fell to 16.5% at end-2011 from 19.0% at end-2010. Although we believe the system is still adequately capitalized, Turkish banks have less room for further rapid growth. Second, we expect government authorities' concerted efforts and the macroprudential measures of Turkey's Banking Regulation and Supervisory Agency (BRSA) to continue in 2012. These measures have helped reduced credit growth in 2011, although they would have been more effective if they had been implemented earlier, in our view.

Real estate prices.  The recent credit boom was not accompanied by a sharp increase in housing prices, which has mitigated risks to the economy. Although there are no official statistics on housing prices in Turkey, the data available in the market (mostly third-party research) support our view. Contributing to the avoidance of a real estate bubble is the country's exceptionally low level of housing loans, at less than 10% of GDP and 10.9% of gross loans at year-end 2011.

Equity prices.  As with many emerging markets, the Turkish equity market is prone to high volatility. However, this does not add risk in our assessment of economic imbalances. Banks usually do not invest in shares and do not offer margin lending to their clients. Yet, about 70% of shares traded on the Istanbul Stock Exchange are held by foreigners, posing an indirect risk for banks--currency and interest rate risk--owing to the potential for rapid portfolio inflows or outflows.

Current account and external debt position.  We believe the external position of Turkey shows moderate vulnerability, which affects our assessment of economic imbalances. A key element is Standard & Poor's measure of narrow net external debt for the country, which, as a percentage of its current account receipts, stood at a high 115% at year-end 2011 and that we expect to increase to 135% in 2012. Another negative factor is Turkey's current account deficit, which reached 10% of GDP (41% of current account receipts) last year, owing to the rapid domestic credit expansion. This deficit is the second largest globally in absolute U.S. dollar terms ($77 billion) after the U.S. itself. This weakness will continue to negatively influence our assessment of the country's economic imbalances.

Table 2

Turkey: Economic Imbalances
--Year ended Dec. 31--
(%) 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011e
Annual change in domestic credit private sector & NFPEs as % points of GDP 3.6 3.3 3.7 7.6 6.2
Annual change in residential housing prices (real): national N.M. N.M. (5.4) 1.3 5.9
Annual change in equity index (inflation-adjusted) (%) N.M. (62.1) 90.4 16.4 (29.8)
Current account balance as % of GDP (5.9) (5.7) (2.2) (6.4) (10.0)
Net external debt as % of GDP 15.0 18.6 16.9 20.3 26.9
e--Estimated. NFPEs--nonfinancial public sector enterprises. N.M.--Not meaningful. Source: Standard & Poor's Financial Institutions Ratings.
Credit risk in the economy: Intermediate risk

Our credit risk score summarizes our view of a banking sector's credit risk relative to its exposure to households and companies, and to the sovereign. We assess credit risk largely by looking at private-sector debt capacity and leverage; lending and underwriting standards; payment culture and rule of law; and sovereign government credit stress.

Private-sector debt capacity and leverage.  Turkey exhibits relatively moderate household and corporate indebtedness. One characteristic is the very low proportion of housing loans, which still represent less than 10% of GDP. At the same time, household leverage is increasing rapidly, as evidenced by a nearly doubling (1.9x growth) in consumer loans in the past two years. In a recession, this could result in higher credit losses for banks. This happened in 2009 when nonperforming loans on credit cards exceeded 10%.

Lending and underwriting standards.   In our view, Turkish banks have at least moderately conservative lending and underwriting standards. Most banks have well-defined credit risk and pricing policies, effective credit scoring, and experienced staff. Lenders benefit from a well-functioning central credit registration bureau. Although about one-third of commercial loans are denominated in foreign currencies, which can present exchange rate risk, most of them are to companies in export-oriented sectors. In addition, banks are restricted from lending to households in foreign currencies. The loan books of Turkish banks usually do not exhibit any significant single-party or industry concentration. Mortgages exhibit relatively short tenors and conservative loan-to-value (LTV) ratios, below the BRSA's 75% regulatory cap. Related-party lending does not constitute a significant risk due to strict regulations.

Payment culture and rule of law.  We deem the payment culture and rule of law in Turkey to be at least moderately strong. We note that Turkey scores relatively poorly on the World Bank's rule of law and control of corruption indicators (both are close to zero). Yet, in our view, the legal framework is relatively efficient and creditor-friendly. Borrowers tend to exhibit a good degree of loyalty toward banks, notably in the consumer loan segment, as evidenced by strong problem loan recovery in 2010 and 2011, which helped the system to contain credit losses.

Table 3

Turkey: Credit Risk In The Economy
--Year ended Dec. 31--
(%) 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011e
Per capita GDP ($) 8,708 9,692 8,043 9,437 9,841
Domestic credit private sector & NFPEs as % of GDP 29.7 33.0 36.7 44.3 49.8
Corporate debt as % of GDP 43.9 54.3 53.0 55.8 63.6
NPAs as % of total loans (year-end) 3.5 3.6 5.6 3.7 2.7
Foreign currency lending (% of total lending) 27.4 33.5 29.9 29.2 30.8
e--Estimated. NFPEs--nonfinancial public sector enterprises. NPA--nonperforming asset. N/A--Not applicable. Source: Standard & Poor's Financial Institutions Ratings.

Industry Risk: 5

The industry risk score for Turkey is '5', based on our assessment of three factors: institutional framework, competitive dynamics, and systemwide funding.

Institutional framework: Intermediate risk

We base our assessment of institutional framework on an analysis of banking regulation and supervision, regulatory track record, and governance and transparency.

Banking regulation and supervision.   Turkey's regulatory standards have improved significantly since the 2001 crisis and are now generally in compliance with international standards. For instance, banks have to comply with conservative rules pertaining to lending in foreign currency, LTV ratios on mortgage loans, and related-party exposures. The minimum regulatory capital adequacy ratio is 8%, but in practice, banks have to maintain their ratio above 12% to be able to open new branches (the BRSA's target capital adequacy ratio). One major regulatory shortcoming is the delayed implementation of Basel II. However, we expect it to be complete in 2012. We expect the subsequent decrease in the systemwide capital adequacy ratio to be contained at about 1 to 2 percentage points.

Regulatory track record.  We assess the track record of the regulators as moderate. We noticed some significant improvements since the 2001 crisis, though they are relatively new and untested by a major stress, after a period of regulatory underperformance. The country has implemented several reforms in the past decade, tightened prudential norms as a result of lessons learned from international and domestic banking crises. A catalyst for the pace of the reforms was Turkey's commitments to the IMF after the systemic crisis in 2001.

Governance and transparency.  We deem governance and transparency in Turkey to be at least adequate. The degree of disclosure of financial accounts is good, as measured by frequency and timeliness of reporting, quality of financial reports, and degree of standardization. Banks publish their accounts under IFRS standards. Almost all banks are publicly listed and the dissemination of public information is more frequent and transparent than before. Yet, like in Russia, family or industrial group ownership is common in Turkey, which we view as negative with respect to corporate governance. Under the new commercial code to come into force in 2012, at least one-third of board members must be independent.

Competitive dynamics: Intermediate risk

Competitive dynamics assesses the structural implications of the competitive landscape that banks face, measured by the industry's risk appetite; industry stability; and market distortions.

Risk appetite.   Our moderate assessment of the risk appetite of Turkish banks balances the absence of innovative, complex, or high-risk lending practices and proprietary trading with an increased and moderate risk appetite, evidenced by a very high pace of lending growth in the past two years. The profitability of the country's banks is supported by their relatively high yield (in real terms) on government debt, good level of efficiency, and high interest margins in the retail segment.

Industry stability.   In our opinion, Turkey's banking industry is at least moderately stable. In the past decade, the industry has largely stabilized, in our view, and several large players dominate the market. Domestic banks have shown a good resilience to the entrance of foreign players and consistently increased their market shares in the past decade.

Market distortions.   In our view, market distortions are very limited in the Turkish banking sector. While state-owned banks still account for about one-quarter of the market, we do not believe that this hinders the industry's competitive strength. Competition from the tiny nonbank financial institutions segment is negligible. This segment is in the early stages of development and offers mostly leasing and factoring services.

Table 4

Turkey: Competitive Dynamics
--Year ended Dec. 31--
(%) 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011e
ROE of domestic banks 21.3 15.5 18.2 18.1 14.6
ROE of corporate sector N/A 12.3 7.4 12.0 9.5
Systemwide return on average assets for banking sector 2.6 1.8 2.4 2.2 1.8
Net interest income to average earning assets for banking sector 5.2 5.0 5.5 4.2 3.5
Market share of largest three banks 45.0 44.0 46.0 46.4 43.2
Market share of gov't-owned + not-for-profit banks 30.0 31.0 31.0 30.7 30.4
*Estimated. ROE--Return on equity. N/A--Not applicable. Source: Standard & Poor's Financial Institutions Ratings.
Systemwide funding: High risk

Systemwide funding assesses the relative stability of a banking sector's funding sources and its access to alternative funding sources.

Core customer deposits.   The Turkish banking system is funded mainly by core customer deposits, but their term structure remains a potential source of risk. The ratio of core customer deposits (as defined by our criteria) to systemwide loans remained in the range of 75%-90% in the past two years. We expect this ratio to remain in this same bucket in 2012. This is based on our assumption of a slowdown in loan growth and an increase in domestic savings, thanks to the recent measures the authorities have implemented. Depositor confidence in Turkey has improved in the past decade thanks to a well-functioning savings deposit insurance scheme, as well as the increased resilience of the banking system.

External funding.   The reliance on funding from abroad for the Turkish banking system is still lower than that of many emerging and developed markets. At the same time, we have noticed a negative trend in the past two years. The annual average ratio of net banking sector external debt to systemwide loans over past two years doubled to 10.6% in 2011. The sharp increase in 2011 was mostly attributable to recourse to funding through repurchase agreements (repos) from abroad owing to the CBRT's measures to tighten liquidity, notably significant hikes in minimum reserve requirements. Although we understand that Turkish banks have enjoyed access to funding from abroad even in the stressed times, we would likely assess systemwide funding as "very high risk" if this ratio were to exceed 20%, all else being equal.

Domestic debt capital markets.  The shallow nature and underdeveloped status of domestic debt markets in Turkey negatively affects our assessment of systemwide funding. The BRSA gave its permission to Turkish banks to raise debt from domestic markets only in 2010. In addition, the domestic savings rate in Turkey is below that of peers and funds collected by private pension schemes and insurers will be a major source for banks only in the long term. The increasing amount of domestic bond issuance and the number of incentives by authorities to boost domestic savings are contributing to the development of the debt markets.

Government role.   The government's role does not affect our assessment of the systemwide funding score for Turkey. In our view, Turkish banks benefit from "adequate" support from the government. In 2008 and 2009, the CBRT was noticeably proactive: it offered additional repo funding to banks, lowered bank reserve requirements, acted as an intermediary-counterparty for interbank transactions (so that the banks did not have to take each other's risks). The CBRT raised minimum reserves requirements in 2011 to curb growth in new lending, but has continued to provide secured loans to Turkish banks to prevent a liquidity squeeze. The central bank employs an interest rate corridor to price repos, giving it more control over the pace of lending. Yet, we also note that this introduces a pricing challenge for banks because the gap between the overnight borrowing rate (5.0% in April 2012) and overnight lending rate (11.5%) remains large in our view.

Table 5

Turkey: Systemwide Funding
--Year ended Dec. 31--
(%) 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011e
Systemwide domestic core customer deposits/Systemwide domestic loans 104.9 103.3 108.5 93.0 81.6
Banking sector net external debt/systemwide domestic loans 5.0 3.2 4.0 17.6 20.6
Systemwide domestic loans/consolidated systemwide assets N.A. N.A. N.A. N.A. N.A.
Outstanding bonds and CPs issued by the private sector in the domestic markets/GDP N.A. N.A. N.A. N.A. N.A.
e--Estimated. CP--Commercial paper. N.A.--Not available. Source: Standard & Poor's Financial Institutions Ratings.

Peer BICRA Scores

Two factors distinguish Turkey from most other countries in BICRA group '5'. At intermediate, Turkey (together with Spain) has the lowest assessments for credit risk in the economy and institutional framework of most countries in its peer group. Yet, in terms of economic imbalances and systemwide funding, both of which we assess as high risk, Turkey (together with Poland and Spain), exhibits higher risk than China, India, and the UAE. These are also the same factors that place Turkey in a higher BICRA group than South Africa (group '4').

Table 6

Peer BICRA Scores





United Arab Emirates



South Africa

BICRA group 5 5 5 5 5 5 6 4
Economic risk score 6 6 5 5 5 5 7 5
Industry risk score 5 5 5 6 5 5 5 3
Government propensity to support Supportive Highly supportive Highly supportive Supportive Highly supportive Supportive Supportive Supportive
Sovereign local currency rating BBB-/Stable/A-3 AA-/Stable/A-1+ BBB-/Negative/A-3 A/Stable/A-1 -- BBB+/Negative/A-2 BBB-/Negative/A-3 A/Negative/A-1
Sovereign foreign currency rating BB/Stable/B AA-/Stable/A-1+ BBB-/Negative/A-3 A-/Stable/A-2 -- BBB+/Negative/A-2 BBB-/Negative/A-3 BBB+/Negative/A-2

Government Support

We classify the Turkish government as "supportive" toward the domestic banking system. We recognize the government's long track record of providing extraordinary support to the banking system in times of stress. Yet, in our view, Turkey's capacity to extend extraordinary financial support is limited by its scarce financial resources, as illustrated by the country's request in 2001 for IMF support to restructure its ailing banking system.

Table 7

Turkey's Five Largest Financial Institutions By Assets
Banks Long-term counterparty credit rating/outlook Ownership Assets (bil. €) Systemic Importance
Turkiye Cumhuriyeti Ziraat Bankasi AS NR State-owned 66 N/A

Turkiye Is Bankasi AS

BB/Positive Privately owned 64 High

Turkiye Garanti Bankasi AS

BB/Positive Privately owned 59 High

Akbank T.A.S.

NR Privately owned 53 N/A

Yapi ve Kredi Bankasi AS

BB/Positive Privately owned 43 High
Source: Turkish Bankers Association. N/A--Not applicable. NR--Not rated.

Related Criteria And Research

Primary Credit Analyst:Goeksenin Karagoez, Paris (33) 1-4420-6724;
Secondary Contact:Magar Kouyoumdjian, London (44) 20-7176-7217;
Sovereign Analyst:Eileen X Zhang, CFA, London (44) 20-7176-7105;
Additional Contacts:Financial Institutions Ratings Europe;
Sovereign Ratings;

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