Turkey - an economy in turbulent times

A staggering inflation rate of 43%, previously topping 80%, looms large over the economy, presenting a formidable challenge for policymakers and investors

09:00 | 16 юни 2023
Обновен: 11:13 | 20 юни 2023
Снимка: Bloomberg L.P.
Снимка: Bloomberg L.P.

As the global economy continuously evolves, investors are increasingly turning to emerging markets for potentially rewarding investment opportunities. Turkey represents a unique case among these markets. Despite its rich historical and cultural heritage, the country's unpredictable foreign and economic policies result in a somewhat subdued investor interest. A plethora of issues, including regional conflicts, strained relations with the West, and an unorthodox mix of economic policies, coupled with a highly volatile currency, create a complex investment environment.

Turkey's economy currently navigates turbulent waters. The country displays a modest GDP growth of 3.5%, which may appear promising compared to the growth rates of Western economies. However, a more profound analysis reveals significant concerns about potential investment performance in the country. Despite the seemingly stable unemployment rate — which in recent years has hovered around Turkey's average of 10% — the economic outlook remains precarious.

A staggering inflation rate of 43%, previously topping 80%, looms large over the economy, presenting a formidable challenge for policymakers and investors. The ghost of stagflation, characterized by a stagnant economy coupled with high inflation, casts a dark shadow over the future.

Furthermore, the private sector is heavily indebted in foreign currency, and the current account deficit remains high. This financial structure, alongside the country's high dependence on foreign financing and a weak national currency, creates substantial risks for financial stability. These risks, compounded by heightened regional geopolitical issues, make Turkey's economic landscape daunting.

This volatile situation has been exacerbated by an unorthodox economic policy — the so-called "Erdonomics", which encompasses a unique blend of measures designed to combat economic challenges. A notable example is the central bank's unconventional approach to fighting inflation by lowering interest rates. This strategy has raised eyebrows among economists and investors as most central banks raise key interest rates to combat high prices.

Referencing the equity market, it lost almost a quarter of its dollar value in a short period due to the deteriorating economy and declining foreign investment. Additionally, the Turkish lira has suffered an unprecedented depreciation against the dollar, witnessing a staggering 320% loss in value over the past five years, with one dollar currently equating to just over 19 liras.

Potential investors must also grapple with heavy bureaucracy and frequent changes to the regulatory framework, which add layers of complexity and uncertainty to the investment process. A risk factor is the country's foreign exchange and gold reserves, which have declined by more than 15% in recent months in an attempt to stabilize the currency and the economy before the recent elections. This situation leads many investors to question how much longer the central bank can maintain this policy, given that foreign reserves are finite.

Despite the described macroeconomic situation, the high volatility that characterizes Turkey's financial market may offer speculative opportunities for investors with a high risk tolerance. As Turkey is a major exporter of agricultural products and textiles, these sectors and companies such as Tekfen Holding could prove resilient in the face of economic challenges.

The energy sector, particularly renewable energy and companies such as Aydem Holding, could provide valuable investment opportunities. Turkey's government is actively working to increase its renewable energy capacity, which, despite the country's economic instability, could render the sector appealing to investors.

As for the best-performing companies, several stand out. At first glance, their results are exceptionally impressive. SASA Polyester Sanayi, a significant player in Turkey's petrochemical sector, leads with an astounding 245% growth over the past year and a price-to-earnings (PE) ratio of 22.7. Atyin trails close behind, with a growth of 129.8%. Also noteworthy is Turkish Airlines, the airline giant, boasting an impressive 215% gain. However, it is important to recognize that these gains, while notable in Turkish lira, appear markedly different when converted to dollars or euros due to the severe devaluation of the lira. Consequently, for foreign investors, actual gains may not be as striking once exchange rate fluctuations are factored in.

Despite significant risks, the Turkish market also presents speculative opportunities, particularly in the foreign exchange (FX) market. With the lira depreciating sharply against the dollar, investors could potentially profit from speculative forex trading by taking short or long positions on currency pairs such as the dollar/Turkish lira or the euro/Turkish lira.

Should investors opt to invest in Turkish companies, a currency-hedged UCITS exchange-traded fund (ETF) that tracks the primary Turkish index would be an optimal choice. Although the costs of currency-hedged instruments are slightly higher than regular instruments, they protect investors from significant exchange rate fluctuations. Additionally, they provide an opportunity to invest in the Turkish market without directly accessing the Istanbul Stock Exchange, as these exchange-traded funds are traded on Western exchanges.

Despite potential risks and uncertainties, the Turkish investment landscape should not be entirely overlooked. Investors willing to navigate volatility may find rewarding market dynamics. While economic, geopolitical, and legal uncertainties pose challenges, they also create opportunities for those willing to take calculated risks. As with any high-risk venture, a thorough understanding of the market, sound decision-making, and strategic planning are paramount for success. Essentially, the investment landscape in Turkey is not for the faint of heart, but for those with an appetite for high risk, it can provide the thrill they seek.