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August 30, 2018updated 09 Nov 2018 5:50am

Mitsubishi drops stake in Turkish car lessor amid lira plunge

Mitsubishi and its global leasing division have disposed of their stakes in one of Turkey's biggest car leasing companies, as foreign investors start hedging against the country's currency crisis.

By Lorenzo Migliorato

Mitsubishi and its global leasing division have disposed of their stakes in one of Turkey’s biggest car leasing companies, as foreign investors start hedging against the country’s currency crisis.

The parent Mitsubishi conglomerate and affiliate Mitsubishi UFJ Lease & Finance have sold their stakes in Ekim Turizm to the company’s founder and chief executive, Vural Ak, for an undisclosed sum. News of the sale was first reported by the Nikkei Asian Review.

The Mitsubishi UFJ group of companies is dedicated to industrial leasing – car leasing being also handled by another unit within the conglomerate – and also has stakes in Hitachi Capital and Japan’s BOT Leasing. Ekim Turizm owns Intercity, one of Turkey’s largest fleet and personal leasing providers, which also operates a de-fleeting retail platform.

Mitsubishi UFJ held 11% of Ekim Turizm, while its parent had a 36% interest. Mitsubishi had invested in the company in 2008, seeing high growth potential in populous emerging markets such as Turkey. At the time, Ekiz Turizm intended to grow to 75,000 vehicles and become one of the top 10 leasing firms worldwide. At present, the company has a fleet of around 50,000 vehicles.

The withdrawal from Ekim Turizm had been on the discussion table for a year, leading Ak to tell a Turkish newspaper the sale was a strategic decision, and was not dictated by exacerbated economic conditions in the country.

According to a July New York Times feature on the Turkish currency crisis, Intercity, which had been on the verge of bankruptcy amid another crisis in 2001, had been hedging against a devaluation of the lira by pricing leases in euros in recent years, to match the company’s cost of financing.

Ak said more than one competitor had come to him asking to be rescued through an acquisition. The article noted how the company was not completely insulated from the crisis, as the retail sale of de-fleeted cars, which it said accounted for 60% of the revenues, still has to be priced in lira, and is likely to be hit by rampant inflation and a falling purchasing power.

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