April fool: Turkish chocolate company shares drop after joke ad backfires

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The Turkish owner of McVities, Jaffa Cakes and Godiva chocolates saw the shares of its listed units sink on Monday after an ad campaign for April Fool’s Day was interpreted by the Turkish government as a harbinger of another coup.

Ulker Biskuvi, part of one of of Turkey’s largest conglomerates – and among the most pious, with regular Friday afternoon breaks for workers wanting to pray – sank nearly 5 percent after an Istanbul lawmaker announced an investigation into a playful advertisement involving siblings seeking revenge in tit-for-tat pranks. A private equity firm owned by the conglomerate, Yildiz Holdings, fell by 7.5 percent and a grocer by 4.6 percent.

“Now is the day of reckoning,” read the advert, interpreted by Metin Kulunk, a lawmaker in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party as an attempt to “manipulate the psychology of 80 million people. This nation has not and will not forget the night of the coup,” according to an interview with a local CNN-affiliate.

For investors, the brouhaha over Ulker, one of Turkey’s most successful international companies, is a reminder that the economy remains on edge during a state of emergency and in the lead-up to a heated referendum. For Mr Erdogan, seeking a yes-vote in two weeks time for a constitutional overhaul designed to further empower him, reminders of the perilous state of Turkish democracy helps garner votes as the country recovers from a failed coup, a war in Syria and a spate of terrorist attacks.

Ulker called the weekend’s reactions – which included a group of Mr Erdogan’s supporters surrounding his Istanbul residence – a defamation campaign and threatened legal action, the second time it has had to deny rumors that its owner, Murat Ulker, has ties to last year’s coup attempt.

“The meaning of the advertisement that was broadcast for April Fool’s Day has been dragged to different points with ill intentions,” the company said in a statement.”The advertisement is about friendly competition among family members, especially brothers and sisters.”

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