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Rating Action:

MOODY'S CHANGES OUTLOOK ON TURKEY'S RATINGS TO POSITIVE IN LIGHT OF STRENGTHENING ECONOMY AND EU TRACK

11 Feb 2005
MOODY'S CHANGES OUTLOOK ON TURKEY'S RATINGS TO POSITIVE IN LIGHT OF STRENGTHENING ECONOMY AND EU TRACK

London, 11 February 2005 -- Moody's Investors Service has changed the outlook on all of Turkey's ratings to positive from stable in light of the country's considerable economic progress since 2001 and the prospects for a significant deepening of economic, financial, and even political integration with the European Union (EU).

At the same time, Moody's has upgraded the ratings on the government's Turkish lira-denominated instruments to B1 from B2 in recognition of improved domestic debt sustainability.

The positive outlook affects the B1 foreign-currency country ceiling for debt, the B2 foreign-currency country ceiling for bank deposits, and the B1-rated bonds and notes issued by the Republic of Turkey, regardless of currency denomination.

While the rating agency acknowledged that a heavy debt burden and a wide current account deficit remained sources of vulnerability for Turkey, Moody's said its positive outlook reflects both the way the economy has performed — rapid disinflation, robust investment, increased productivity — and the way it is managed — political stability and responsibility in macroeconomic management.

Moody's ascribed the success of legislating profound socio-political reforms in recent years to the highly popular quest for EU membership. A single, dominant political party, the AK Party, has shepherded these policy changes since the November 2002 election that brought it to power, and the country was recently awarded an October 2005 date for the start of EU membership negotiations. If, as seems increasingly likely, the political leadership can remain unified for a lengthy period, the EU project will continue to support the continued modernization and convergence of the Turkish economy, said Moody's.

The rating agency said that Turkey's EU membership negotiations framework was consistent with expectations after the EU Commission's progress report in October, including the various conditions that Turkey will face during the negotiation process; the possibility that the eventual result will fall short of full membership status; and the length of time — at least ten years — that all involved expect the negotiations to take. Turkey's expected extension of its EU customs agreement to the 10 newest EU members, including Cyprus, is the step that will allow the membership talks to get underway on schedule.

Still, Moody's emphasized that the economic reform process is far from complete. The agency said that the Turkish government must still undertake difficult structural adjustments to secure lasting economic stability as well as make painful political concessions to fulfill its EU ambitions, although without any guarantee that these will actually lead to full membership.

In addition, widening external deficits raise questions about the economy's ability to avoid another boom-bust cycle without disrupting the virtuous trajectory of declining debt and inflation. To accomplish a softer landing, Turkey will need to attract increased inflows of non-debt creating capital via foreign direct investment, equity, and official transfers and also maintain its commitment to a floating currency.

Moody's said that it is focusing on the passage of needed tax, banking system, and social security reform legislation that will pave the way for a another International Monetary Fund (IMF) stand-by program to begin. Also of interest will be the Turkish government's signals regarding the various actions necessary to facilitate EU membership negotiations. Finally, the agency will continue to monitor developments in the external trade sector to assess whether a disorderly outcome would endanger the country's debt repayment capacity.

Press releases on other affected issuers will follow.

New York
Kristin Lindow
VP - Senior Credit Officer
Sovereign Risk Unit
Moody's Investors Service
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Paris
Pierre Cailleteau
Senior Vice President
Sovereign Risk Unit
Moody's France S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

No Related Data.
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