Stephensons takes first steps into Turkey with mall sell-off

Stephenson Harwood has dipped its toe into the emerging Turkish market following a long-term real estate client’s $750m (£377.38m) purchase in what is Europe’s largest single-asset transaction in recent years.

Stephensons client St Martins Property, part of the Kuwait Investment Authority, purchased the Cevahir Mall in Istanbul, Europe’s largest shopping mall and the second-largest in the world.

The deal is the first Turkey-based transaction for the firm’s real estate team and it helped the firm forge strong links with local outfit Pekin & Bayar.

Stephensons real estate partner John Pike, who was the firm’s chief executive between 1996 and 2004, led the transaction team.

“St Martins’ evolution to look at emerging markets on a global basis has taken us outside the UK market, and this has been a very exciting, interesting and challenging transaction with the cultural and language differences,” said Pike. “This is the first time we have worked with Pekin & Bayar, a firm which was recommended to us. We certainly would have no hesitation in going back to them for another transaction.”

Pekin partners Murat Aygun and Hasan Caglayan led the local law advice for St Martins. The six-storey Cevahir Mall boasts in the region of 320 retail outlets, let to both national and international retailers, and an entertainment centre with a 14-screen cinema, bowling alley and a fairground spanning three floors.

Turkey’s Cevahir family and the municipality of Istanbul each sold their 50 per cent stake in the mall to St Martins. The Municipality agreed to sell following a public tender.

Both selling parties used in-house counsel to complete the deal, with Cevahir Group represented by legal counsel Ilker Ulas, while the municipality head of legal Ilker Ulas advised the local authority.