March 1, 2016
The Big Lebowski, Market-Maker
The Istanbul stock exchange, known as Borsa İstanbul, rushed to assure its participants after Bloomberg reported on March 11 about “a specter haunting stock traders in Istanbul that some are calling ‘the dude,’” a nickname borrowed from the cult film classic “The Big Lebowski.” “A mystery investor who first appeared a year and a half ago with $450 million of bets on a single day, almost double the market average, is now executing major transactions with increasing frequency ….” Borsa İstanbul issued a statement on March 12 stating that “any price and amount moves” as well as other information are monitored and reviewed, and “if any suspicious moves are detected” they are reported to its regulator, the Turkish Capital Markets Board.
“Implementation Day” certifies regional optimism
With the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the Atomic Energy Agency, certified on 16 January 2016 – aka “Implementation Day” – that Iran had complied with its side of the 14 July 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, many EU sanctions were lifted (although most US sanctions remained). “Snap-Back” provisions are in place, whereby certain sanctions could be re-imposed in the event of blatant infringements of the Plan of Action by Iran. Optimism in the region was and is widespread, with Turkey recently predicting annual trade with Iran may soon exceed $30 billion, up from $9.7 billion in 2015.
Testing the waters
reported on February 10 that according to “two banking sources” Turkish conglomerate Fiba Group “has put up for sale” its Russian bank, Credit Europe Bank. One source, identified as an employee at Credit Europe, is quoted as saying “[w]hat really pushed (the owners) to leave Russia is a deterioration in Russia-Turkey relations; this is what the top management of the bank told their employees.” The very next day, however, English language Daily Sabah reported that Murat Özyeğin, a Fiba board member and son of Fiba founder Hüsnü Özyeğin, said “[w]e have no problems with Russia, but we can see proposals anytime.”
Starbucks espresso and gunboat diplomacy
After the Cold War and Bosnian conflict, Russian war ships cruising the Bosphorus were a rare sight, until now. According to a March 6 article in the UK’s The Independent – for which espresso drinkers at a Starbucks on the Bosphorus were interviewed – “[a]lready this year, Russian warships have made almost four dozen trips up and down the strait.” And this after a Russian sailor stood on deck with a ground-to-air missile launcher on his shoulder as his Russian warship passed through the straight back in December. (See featured article, Russia and Turkey talk sanction.)
“Movable feast” or famine
In the latest Eurobarometer survey on the “Perception of Quality of Life in European Cities” conducted at the request of the European Commission, the views of 40,000 people from 79 cities were compiled. Overall there is a high level of satisfaction with regard to the cities in which the respondents live, with for example 99% of the residents of Oslo and Zurich saying they are so satisfied. Istanbul residents, however, ranked lowest, with only 65% saying they were satisfied; this number has fallen the most of any city – by 14% – since 2012.
Mind the Gap
During a five-day trip to Washington, D.C. to attend the Nuclear Security Summit 2016, Turkish President Erdoğan met with leading figures in Turkish-American business. Seeking to close the yawning gap between the Turkey’s trade volume with the E.U. (some $150 billion in 2015) and with the U.S. (estimated to be $17.5 billion) the President stated “[t]here is no businessmen who regrets making an investment in Turkey, who was subject to illegal treatment, has difficulty in saving the money gained or whose money remained in Turkey.”