Chinese banks may refinance Istanbul Airport debts

Chinese banks including the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) are in talks with the operator of Istanbul Airport to refinance 5.7 billion euros ($6.2 billion) of debt, Bloomberg reported.

About half of the restructured loans could come from the Chinese banks, while other lenders who were part of the original deal could also participate, Bloomberg said, citing a person familiar with the matter.

The operator of the airport, IGA, said in November that it hired London-based Dome Group to work on a refinancing deal. Any agreement would help IGA cut interest payments significantly, it said.

IGA got the financing for Istanbul Airport from several Turkish state-run and listed banks in 2015 and 2018. The loans mature in 2031. IGA is required to pay 22.1 billion euros, or 1.1 billion euros a year, for a 25-year deal to operate the airport, which opened in late 2018 and could become the world’s largest should all construction phases be completed.

IGA is owned by construction companies with close ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has heralded the airport as a symbol of Turkey's emerging regional and global power. Some Turkish firms have struggled to obtain financing from Western banks since a currency crisis swept through the country's financial markets in August 2018.