ECONOMY

Turkey's Halkbank plans further growth in the Balkans, eyes Moldovan market

Turkish state lender Halkbank continues to expand its presence in the Balkans with its subsidiary operating in North Macedonia, Halkbank AD Skopje.

The Turkish lender ranks fourth in North Macedonia's 8.2 billion euro ($9.14 billion) banking sector and aims to enter a third market in the Balkans.

While the bank is currently running operations in Serbia and North Macedonia, it has plans to enter the Moldovan market.

Addressing journalists following an iftar (fast-breaking) dinner in Skopje, the capital pr

ovince of North Macedonia, Halkbank General Manager Osman Arslan noted that North Macedonia is the first international operation of the public lender.

"Our second address outside Turkey was Serbia. As a public lender, we are interested in the Balkans area. Moldova has a significant amount of Turkish investment. Therefore, we would like to revive our negotiations there," Arslan said.

Halkbank currently has 43 branches outside Turkey and aims to reach 50 branches globally. The bank's general manager noted that the public lender ranks fourth in the North Macedonian market, where the five largest banks hold 75 percent of the entire market. In case the bank ensures an annual growth of 300 million euros, it will become one of the three largest banks in the country, Arslan remarked. Arslan noted that the bank has established Halk Insurance, making Turkey's first overseas insurance investment. "We have acquired an insurance firm for 3 million euros. The firm has 42 business agents, which now operate under Halk Insurance. We would like to grow our presence in the insurance sector as well," he said.

Halkbank Skopje Board Chair Bilal Sucubaşı noted that the asset size of Halkbank AD Skopje reached 823 million euros by April. "By the end of last year, the size of the banking sector in North Macedonia was 8.2 million euros. While the size of loans is currently 582 million euros, the size of deposits at our bank is 585 million euros," he said.

In 2011, the number of Halkbank ATMs in North Macedonia was 48 and it jumped to 131 in 2018. The number of point of sale (POS) devices rose to 6,385 from previous level of 975. "We have a 25 percent market share in all POS transactions," Sucubaşı said.

Tülin Erkal Kara, Ankara's envoy to Skopje, also drew attention to the significant investment opportunities in North Macedonia for Turkish businesspeople. "The government would like to see more Turkish investments in the agriculture sector. Turkish investors might earn concession rights for 99 years in Gevgelija, close to the Greek border," she said, adding that Turkish businesspeople have so far invested 1.2 billion euros in the country.

*Barış Ergin

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