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Alibaba and other China heavyweights eye Turkey assets after lira plunge, source say

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Alibaba and other China heavyweights eye Turkey assets after lira plunge, source say
The logo of Alibaba Group is seen at the company's headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China July 20, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song   -   Copyright  ALY SONG(Reuters)
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By Ebru Tuncay and Can Sezer

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Several large Chinese companies, including tech giant Alibaba, are actively looking at opportunities in Turkey and have met with Turkish firms after the lira’s sell-off has made local assets cheaper, sources familiar with the talks said.

The talks in Istanbul started in mid-August, when Turkey was at the height of its currency crisis, four sources said, declining to be identified because the information has not been made public.

In addition to Alibaba, which earlier this year purchased Turkish online retailer Trendyol, other companies holding talks included China Life Insurance and conglomerate China Merchants Group, [CNMGP.UL], three of the sources said.

“We met four Chinese groups in just a week. They held more than 20 meetings,” one of the sources said, adding that the meetings had been arranged by top U.S. investment banks.

“They are looking into nearly everything.”

Alibaba declined to comment on future investment plans. China Life Insurance did not respond to request for comment. China Merchants could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Chinese companies have shown interest in Turkey’s infrastructure, mining, energy, retail and insurance industries, three of the sources said.

Turkey’s lira has fallen some 40 percent so far this year, hit by concerns about President Tayyip Erdogan’s control over monetary policy and a diplomatic rift with the United States.

But the despite the crisis, Turkey retains enviable demographics, making it particularly attractive for consumer-focused industries over the long term. It is home to some 80 million people and with one of the youngest populations in Europe.

(Additional reporting by Birsen Altayli in Istanbul, Cate Cadell, Shu Zhang in Beijing; Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by David Dolan)

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