Political uncertainty in Turkey following last month’s failed coup attempt has started to affect the country’s telecoms industry.
Two senior executives have left Türk Telekom after being swept up in the mass arrests authorised by president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after he overcame the attempted coup on 15 July. Others are reported to have been sacked.
The two Türk Telekom executives who have left have been named as Erkan Akdemir, the CEO of the consumer business, and Coşkun Şahin, the CTO. The CEO of Türk Telekom, Rami Aslan, has taken over the consumer CEO role and will look after the technology role until a new CTO is appointed.
Aslan said: “On behalf of Turk Telekom, we would like to thank Erkan Akdemir and Coşkun Şahin for their invaluable efforts and contributions that lead to great achievements throughout the customer-oriented integration and transformation efforts of our group companies.”
But the official company statement make no reference to the circumstances behind their departures, simply saying they had “served notice to leave their positions at Türk Telekom Group”.
Türk Telekom did not respond to requests to a number of executives for further comment and more details about the background. Global Telecoms Business also asked Coşkun Şahin for comment via his LinkedIn account, and he simply said: "Thanks, I am very well now" and said he had "nothing [to add] for now".
The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet said the executives were summoned by prosecutors to give testimony in connection with the failed coup attempt, and the newspaper linked that directly to their departure, but said no more about the circumstances.
The paper also said that Türk Telekom – which is 30% state owned – had sacked 290 people.
Türk Telekom is not alone: Hurriyet has also reported that 44 companies have had their premises raided by police bearing warrants to detain 120 company executives. According to the newspaper, 35,000 people have been detained since the coup attempt, of whom nearly half have been formally arrested.
The Erdoğan government apparently believes the attempted military coup was inspired by Fethullah Gülen, a preacher based in the US who denies the accusation. A state-run news agency says the police action is against companies that are accused of giving financial support.
Meanwhile rival operator Turkcell appears not to have been affected by the crackdown.
Both companies have powerful – but very different – shareholders. Türk Telekom is 55% owned by a private construction company, Saudi Oger, based in Riyadh. The 15% balance of shares – after the 30% government stake – are quoted on the Istanbul Stock Exchange.
Turkcell was the first Turkish company to be quoted on the New York Stock Exchange, and shares are also quoted on the Istanbul exchange. Russian investor Mikhail Fridman owns 13.2% via his LetterOne investment vehicle and Turkish industrial group Çukurova owns 13.8%. Those two shareholders have been in dispute for many years and on 1 August a London arbitration court decided that Çukurova should buy its rival’s shares for $2.7 billion or sell its shares in Turkcell to Çukurova for $2.8 billion within 60 days.
Global Telecoms Business has also asked Vodafone, which is also a significant operator in Turkey, whether it has been affected.
At the same time Hurriyet has reported that the Erdoğan government has closed down Telekomunikasyon Iletisim Baskanligi (TİB), the country’s internet regulation authority, and merged it with the Information Technology and Communications Authority (BTK), of which it was a department.