Turkey & the Real Risk of a Debt Crisis

The Treasury and Finance Ministry of Turkey announced that the country’s net external debt stock totaled $286.2 billion going into the end of the 3rd quarter of 2018. The country’s net external debt stock to its gross domestic product (GDP) ratio was 34.4% at the end of the third quarter of 2018. However, Turkey’s gross external debt stock amounted to $448.4 billion at the end of the 3rd quarter, bringing the debt/GDP ratio to 53.8% according to the official figures.

Interestingly, because of the fear of the Turkish lira, Turkish corporations have been often compelled to borrow in dollars. Therefore, the private sector’s share in the country’s gross external debt stock was 68.2% ($305.9 billion), while some $215.9 billion of this amount consisted of long-term debts with a maturity of more than one year. The Turkish public sector’s share of this debt was 30.6% in the country’s total foreign debt, which is about $21.4 billion in short-term (under one year) with $115.7 billion in the long-term (over one year). The banking sector’s (lenders and the central bank) external debt stock was $176.99 billion at the end of the 3rd quarter.

When we break this down further, 58.5% of the total gross external debt is denominated in U.S. dollars with only 32.3% denominated in euros. The amount denominated in Turkish lira among the external debt stock was a trifling 5.9%. This illustrates the crisis that will emerge with a change in the currency values.


Roman Coins Wash up on Beach in Florida


There have been discoveries of Roman coins in Japan as well as in North America. There has even been the discovery of a Roman sword in Newfoundland. Now, a treasure hunter with a metal detector uncovered seven Roman coins that washed up on a beach here in the Tampa region. This is strong evidence that there must have been a Roman shipwreck off the coast of Tampa or in nearby proximity.

These coins are of the 4th century from the era of Constantine. They are bronze and of no particular rarity. In such a condition, they are really worthless. Nevertheless, there certainly seems to have been Roman ships that crossed the Atlantic long before even the Vikings, no less Columbus.

There are accounts that the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius sent diplomats to China around 180 AD. There are no written records from Rome, but there are written records from China confirming that meeting and even a recording of the name of the Roman emperor.

There are no documents that confirm Romans traveling across the Atlantic, yet there is evidence that they were indeed here in North America. This raises the possibility that these were one-way trips, perhaps from a ship caught in a storm and set on its path to America.

The left coin in this photograph is clearly one of Saint Helena who was the mother of Constantine I the Great. She was a devout Christian who set out to discover the major places in the Holy Land. She built the church in Jerusalem over Calvary and near the tomb of Jesus Christ

Preferred v Ordinary Shares

QUESTION: Hi Martin,

What are your thoughts on preferred shares? Especially the ones with good quality DBRS ratings. Will they survive the downturn or will they fail?

ANSWER: Ordinary and preference shares are a claim on corporate earnings and assets. Dividends for ordinary shares may be irregular and indefinite, whereas preference shareholders will receive a fixed dividend which will accrue usually if the payments are not made in one term. Ordinary shareholders are in a riskier position than preference shareholders since they are the last to receive their share in the event of liquidation. That may not be a concern in a blue chip company. Nevertheless, they also are open to the possibility of a higher dividend during times when the firm is doing well in contrast to preferred shared with fixed income.

Preferred shares can be looked upon as a hybrid debt where you have a claim on the assets, but like a loan, it has a fixed rate. Ownership of preference shares offers advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, it provides a higher claim on earnings, assets, and fixed dividends. On the other, it limits voting rights and the possibility for growth in dividends in times when the company is financially sound.

The good companies will generally survive. This is a collapse in government – not the private sector