Last month, we reported that the struggle for control of Turkcell’s (NYSE: TKC) board of directors was entering the last innings of what had proven to be a very long ballgame (see “Turkish Telecom on Brink of Big Move”).
Alas, we have nothing new to report on this drawn-out pitcher’s duel. The case is still bouncing around the court system of the old British Empire, and nothing definitive has been decided. I do expect a resolution—and soon. But I also learned that it might be best not to hold my breath.
In the meantime, life goes on, and Turkcell continues to expand and thrive as one of the premier emerging market telecom providers. The company released earnings late last month, and results were mostly strong. Revenues grew 4% in what was a very difficult year for Turkey and emerging markets in general, and Turkcell’s subscriber base grew by 1.1 million to 34.5 million users. The company expects 2012 revenues to grow by more than double the 2011’s rate, driven by the increased popularity of data and mobile internet plans.
Earnings took a hit, however, falling 33% due to a currency crisis in Belarus, where Turkcell has significant assets. (Yes, this is the downside of investing in emerging markets; while the potential for growth is enticing, it’s not all sunshine and roses. Little things like currency devaluations can and do happen.)
Interestingly for shareholders, while no decision has been made on the reinstatement of the dividend—which has not been paid in over a year due to the boardroom dispute—CEO Sureyya Ciliv suggested that a share buyback could be in the works for July of this year.
I’ve made my case for several months now: even if Turkcell’s boardroom power struggle continues indefinitely the company is attractive as a play on rising incomes in Turkey, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. It is a fantastic investment in what I consider to be the biggest macro trend of the next decade: the rise of the emerging market consumer.
When you add to this powerful macro trend shareholder-friendly moves like the reinstatement of the dividend and the potential for substantial share buybacks, you have the ingredients in place for spectacular returns. This was my rationale for making Turkcell my pick in the InvestorPlace “10 Stocks for 2012” contest, and it continues to be my rationale today.
When the board drama is resolved, I expect the shares to pop. But in the meantime, life goes on.
Turkcell recently won the award for “Best New Product” at the 2012 Global Mobile Awards for its Click to Talk application, which enables its users to place phone calls from within Facebook. The company was also nominated for two other awards, “Best Mobile Money Innovation” and “Best Technology Product or Solution for Serving Customers.”
You could feel Mr. Ciliv’s pride when he said in response, “Turkcell, which is an innovation leader in technology in Turkey, has once again proven with this award that it has the skills to sign global firsts and bests… We are working hard for Turkey to become a country that produces technology, rather than imports it, and we are pleased to see that our efforts bear fruit.”
Turkcell is a world-class company trading at a very reasonable price. Take advantage of the buying opportunity presented by the boardroom fiasco to accumulate shares of this leading emerging market innovator.