Akbank (AKBNK.IS) General Manager Ziya Akkurt said on Thursday the Turkish lender would target 15-16 percent loan growth in 2010, outstripping banking sector growth as a whole, which he forecast at 12-13 percent.

The bank, which is Turkey's largest company by market value and in which Citigroup (C.N) has a 20 percent stake, would take a more aggressive stance next year and open 50-60 new branches, he told reporters.

Turkey's banking sector has proved highly resilient during the global downturn, benefiting from strict regulations in place since a 2001 domestic financial crisis and a lack of exposure to toxic or exotic assets.

Eleven months of rate cuts by the central bank have also boosted Turkish banks' profits by making the cost of funding cheaper and allowing them to increase net interest income. Akbank reported a 44 percent rise in second-quarter net profit. Akkurt dismissed suggestions by the country's banking association that 2010 would be a difficult year once the rate-cutting cycle came to an end.

Expectations that 2010 will be a difficult year for banks will not come to fruition, he said.

Shares in Akbank (AKBNK.IS) have doubled since the start of the year, outperforming Istanbul's index of leading stocks , which is up some 84 percent.

However, Akbank has slightly lagged gains in the banking index .XBANK, and competitor Garanti (GARAN.IS), which has a larger free-float, is up 136 percent since the star of the year.

Akbank is controlled by the Sabanci family, one of Turkey's richest. They also control Aksigorta (AKGRT.IS), Turkey's biggest insurer by market value. Akkurt said they could seek a strategic partner for Aksigorta.

Aksigorta shares rose 5.5 percent in afternoon trade, while Akbank was 2.22 percent higher, outperforming the main index, which was up 1.4 percent. Akbank Chairwoman Suzan Sabanci said in May the bank expected loan growth to slow to 5 percent in 2009 as the country's record economic contraction saps demand. In 2008 Akbank's loan book rose 20 percent.