They started off in 1976 by setting up a project firm when they were both still two young engineers. They created a $600 million company active in contracting, tourism, energy, cement, technology and foodstuffs. Nihat Özdemir and Sezai Bacaksız sum up their secret as ‘consulting with each other on every issue and are looking to strengthen their partnership in the future. “We are interested in port tenders, energy and the natural gas distribution business. We see every privatization in Turkey as an opportunity” they say.
Limak, which was founded by Nihat Özdemir and Sezai Bacaksız, is the product of a 40 year-old friendship. When the two young engineers founded the company in 1976 they began as a project firm, and later expanded in the contracting, tourism, energy, cement, technology and foodstuffs sectors. In 30 years they reached a turnover of $600 million. Their new target is to increase the group’s turnover to $1 billion by 2012.
We listened to the two partners’ plans for the future.
* What are your plans for the future?
NÖ: Including our participations, our annual turnover has now exceeded $600 million. Our target is to reach $1 billion after 2012. With the investments we are making we shall achieve this target in 2012.
* Are you thinking of going public?
NÖ: Going public is important from the perspective of corporatization. Initially it could be in tourism, cement or energy. We were going to go public in alcohol in 2007 but we found an important strategic partner instead. We are closely monitoring public offerings. We shall consider on it when we achieve suitable conditions. We should have one or two publicly-owned companies to make it easier for us to become well-established institutionalized company.
* How do you approach foreign partnerships?
NÖ: We always look favourably on them. We are continuing to hold discussions with them on every level. There is also always a foreign initiative of ours in our head office in Istanbul. They are interested in all of our activities, including tourism. Next week a group will come to discuss our tourism operations. We are holding discussion with a group in cement.
* Are you thinking of expanding abroad?
NÖ: We are aiming to expand abroad in cement together with a foreign partner. We may make investments in cement in Iraq, Syria and Egypt.
* You bought the alcoholic drinks division of Tekel for $292 million and now you are selling some of it to a Texan company for $900 million. Did you buy it cheap or are you selling because you are now making a profit?
SB: It was not $292 million. There was no legally drawn-up contract and as a result of pressure from the Finance Ministry and Metin Kilci we paid the Special Consumption Tax (ÖTV) of $40 million and bought it for $332 million. Three companies made bids. We learned that Kent offered $145 million and Sabanci $140 million. I mean, we did not buy it cheaply.
In addition, there is no such thing as a $900 million price tag. We do not want to say ‘no’ to that so as not to create speculation but the figure is not as large as that.