An Ankara administrative court on 10 August suspended the privatisation in May of the government’s 42.55 per cent stake in Izmir-based steelmaker Metas Izmir Metalurji Sanayii. Against considerable local opposition, the stake was sold for $57.9 million to Rumeli Celik Sanayib, which is owned by the Uzan family (MEED 19:5:95).

The case for suspension was brought by Tutunculer Bankasi (Tutunbank), one of the bidders disappointed by the sale, and an affiliate of Izmir- based Yasar Holding. Tutunbank’s case is that authority to sell the stake did not rest with the government’s Privatisation Administration (OIB), but with the treasury.

Trading of Metas shares on the Istanbul stock exchange has been temporarily halted to await explanations from all concerned parties. The OIB and the Prime Ministry have the right to file an objection to the court within 90 days.

Metas sources say the court decision may not be retroactive. Rumeli Celik had paid $28.95 million together with TL 60,000 million ($1.4 million) to the OIB on 25 May when the sell off contract was signed, but under the contract still has to pay the remaining $28.95 million with interest on 25 May 1996.