Ahmet Çalık is a businessman who does business on a global scale but is rarely in the limelight in Turkey… His 23 companies in two countries employ 15,000 personnel. Annual sales have reached $935 million. Ahmet Çalık says that his companies will continue to grow not only in their main field of construction but also in textiles, trade, finance and telecommunications. He has set an ambitious target for the future. “We want to grow by making investments focusing on added value production in the region around Turkey.”
He suddenly caught the public eye when he put in a bid of $6.5 billion with the Etisalat Ortak Girişim Group during the Turk Telekom tender. The bid was the second highest, $50 million short of the winner. After the tender he made triggered a storm by declaring: “We shall pay the price in one instalment and we won’t even ask for a discount for paying in one instalment.” Everybody was talking about this young businessman from Malatya. After this he really made everybody sit up and notice him when he bought the Albanian national telecommunications provider Albtelekom for €120 million.
In fact, as a businessman Ahmet Çalık is better known as a textile producer. Because his family has a history in textiles going back to the 1930s. But their textile business really began to take off in the 1980s with the foundation of Ortadoğu Tekstil and GAP Güneydoğu Tekstil. Within a short time they had become suppliers to a world famous denim producer.
In the 1990s he turned to Turkmenistan. The investments he made here meant that, in addition to being known as a textiles manufacturer, he became famous as the ‘The Investment King of Turkmenistan’. He established several factories in Turkmenistan. In fact, Turkmenistan represented a turning point in Çalık’s business career. He developed his textile and construction businesses in the country. The opportunities offered by the energy sector and his desire to do business in this field in Turkmenistan resulted in him establishing GAP Enerji in 1998 and Çalık Enerji in 2000. His acquisition of Bursagaz from the Privatisation Administration in 2004 was an indication that he intended to grow in energy. He moved into the financial sector by establishing Çalıkbank in 1999.
Today Ahmet Çalık is owner of the largest investments in Eastern Anatolia and has set his main fields of business as textiles, finance, construction and energy. The group has set itself a target of ‘regional growth’ in the sectors in which it is active. Ahmet Çalık says: “In order to attain this target we shall evaluate e very opportunity that may arise in Turkey or the region. We may make regional investments, we may merge with regional companies, we may acquire them.” Moreover, he notes that they are interested in the privatisation programme.
Ahmet Çalık, Board Chairman of Çalık Holding, one of the most talked about names of recent times, spoke for the first time about the group’s growth strategies with Capital.
Traditionally your group has grown organically. But the interest you have shown in the privatisation programme in an indication of a change in your behaviour. What were the reasons for this change in strategy?
We are a firm which has come from industry and trade. During this process we have developed ourselves. We are a group which has adopted the principle of growth through invested our accumulated capital. Within this framework we are now looking at new areas in accordance to global developments and changes in Turkey.
But our fields of activity and strategies are clear. The areas on which are focused are textiles, construction, energy, trade, telecommunications and finance. Our traditional field of business is textiles. In fact, our business here is going very successfully.
In addition to textiles, Turkmenistan also represented a new era for us. Our construction group expanded considerably there. In addition, to construction we have also grown in the energy sector. This is our general vision.
Will you continue to grow through acquisitions?
We can respond to the opportunities and conditions that may arise in the sectors either through companies we have founded from scratch or through companies which we acquired or with which we have merged. We shall continue to evaluate any opportunities we seize in the areas which we have identified as our main fields of activity as textiles and the construction, telecommunication and energy sectors.
Within this framework, in the international arena we shall continue with the partnerships we have formed with the leading companies of the world.
At the moment, the privatisation programme is continuing in Turkey. The programme is going successfully. We acquired Bursagaz through the privatisation process. In any case, urban gas distribution is a field in which we have been working since 1996. When the Privatisation Administration put Bursagaz out to tender we became a customer. We are extremely happy with our investment here. We are following the other privatisation tenders.
In textiles you are an important player in Turkey through GAP Güneydoğu and your other companies. What kind of growth plan do you have for the textile group?
We have executives at the head of every sector. All of them have long-term growth plans. Textiles are our traditional sector, something which we have inherited from the family. It is a field which we know well and think about. At the moment, we are one of the most important producers of denim in the world. In 2004 GAP Güneydoğu Tekstil which is the largest textile company in our group, increased its exports to $106.3 million. We work with global brands such as Diesel, Levi’s, Lee and Replay. Over the last ten years this company has recorded the highest rate of growth of any in Turkey. In the future, we shall continue to stick to our policy of product diversification strategy and remain a popular, sought-after brand, staying ahead of the competition through the high quality of our products.
THE MOST ATTRACTIVE OPPORTUNITIES IN THE WORLD ARE IN TURKEY
THE SERVICES SECTOR WILL DEVELOP RAPIDLY I believe that the services sector in Turkey will develop a lot. One third of the world’s population lives within a 3-4 hour flight. When we look towards Europe, there is London, to the north is Moscow. There are also Tashkent, North Africa and Dubai. One third of the world’s population lives in our immediate neighbourhood. This neighbouring population can become our customers. We have always exported industrial products. Whereas now we can export services. As the Çalık Group we see the region as a place with the potential for us to create business.
THERE IS POTENTIAL IN HEALTH In the services sector, I think there is considerable potential in health. But we are not thinking about making an investment in this field. We think that there is a major opportunity in the health sector. I believe that health services in Turkey can provide services not only to the domestic market but also to the region. Today the young population of Europe is shrinking and the population is ageing. An ageing population needs to be looked after. Turkey can easily provide services to people living in the surrounding area.
WATCH NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES There are opportunities in Turkey. I think that the most attractive opportunities in the world are in Turkey. All companies have to do is to see them and realise them. Because I think that companies can develop opportunities by themselves. There are important opportunities throughout the region surrounding Turkey. Sixty percent of the world’s hydrocarbons are in our surrounding area. On the one side we have hydrocarbon riches, on the other side we Europe, the Balkans and North Africa. Turkey is full of opportunities.