Chinese investors to buy majority stakes in Turkey's bridge, highway

Turkey's competition authority said no permission required for transferring stakes after a Chinese consortium had applied to the authority to permit it to buy 51 percent of stake in Turkish company responsible for the construction and operation of the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, Patronlar Dünyası reported on Friday.

The Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, towards the north of the strait near the city’s new third airport, is one of the tallest suspension bridges in the world with a height of 322 metres. Opened in August 2016, more than 100,000 vehicles a day now cross the bridge, according to the Transport and Infrastructure Ministry.

However, the bridge’s performance has failed to live up to projections.

The third bridge spanning Istanbul’s Bosporus Straits made a total of $135 million from tolls in 2017, far less than the $464 million the government guaranteed it would pay to its builders each year.

Italian construction company Astaldi, which owns 33 percent of the bridge, has been seeking to sell the asset for more than a year. The partners borrowed $2.3 billion from Turkish banks for the project, which included loans with Treasury guarantees. A portion of the loans was sold by Garanti Bank and state-run Halkbank to Bank of America and Merrill Lynch earlier this year.

Astaldi applied to the Competition Board for the transfer of the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge and Marmara Motorway Investment shares to Turkey's İçtaş.

The consortium of six Chinese companies, including Jiangsu Expressway and its partners, including Anhui Expressway, China Merchants Expressway Network & Technology (CMET), CMU, Zheijang Expressway, to be established in Hong Kong, will buy a 51% stake in İçtaş for $688.5 million, Patronlar Dünyası said.