Mobius warns of possible Turkey capital controls


SINGAPORE • There’s a “real possibility” Turkey will impose capital controls to stem the plunge in the lira, which would be bad for the whole developing-nation asset class, said veteran emerging-markets (EMs) investor Mark Mobius.

“If Turkey is forced to close the foreign- exchange window so that foreign investors cannot get out, that will be a very, very bad example for other EMs,” Mobius said in a Bloomberg TV interview with Rishaad Salamat and Haidi Lun.

“As you know in the past during the Asian crisis, Malaysia did that and it was very, very bad news.”

While some investors are starting to weigh the possibility, the Turkish government has said repeatedly it won’t limit the flow of foreign money in and out of the economy.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said over the weekend that the country wouldn’t raise interest rates or accept an international bailout.

Mobius, who left Franklin Templeton Investments earlier this year to set up Mobius Capital Partners LLP, said he is “deeply concerned” by the standoff between the US and Turkey over Ankara’s detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson.

The tension between the two nations, coupled with concern over Turkey’s current-account deficit and runaway inflation, has dragged the lira down by around 26% this month.

White House national security advisor John Bolton said on Monday that there was nothing further to negotiate until Brunson is freed, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The veteran investor’s latest view on Turkey contrasts with what he said just over a month ago.

President Erdogan has been able to stay in power because of his ability to keep the economy going, Mobius said in a July 11 interview after Erdogan tightened his grip on the central bank and appointed his son-in-law as economic czar.

Malaysia introduced capital controls in 1998 during the Asian financial crisis.

Although criticised at the time by the International Monetary Fund, they were ultimately seen as helping to stabilise the economy.

While the current turmoil in EMs is creating opportunities — in Brazilian consumer stocks, for example — investors need to be careful, Mobius said.

Further declines in China’s yuan are also likely if the trade war with the US continues, he said.