Interview with Director General (CEO) of Çalik Holding, Berat Albayrak
The Çalik Holding Enterprise, which is operating in Albania through three big companies, ALBtelecom, National Commercial Bank and Eagle Mobile, declares it`s investments in Albania have reached around 300 million euro. We have plans for the further enlargement of of these sectors, as well as entry into other fields such as energy, construction and insurance one”. In the interview given to "Monitor" magazine, by the director general of Çalik Holding, Berat Albayrak, speaks about the progressing on Calik investments in Albania, future plans, and estimating the Albanian market.
How much is the value of Çalik Group investments in Albania?
We consider Albania as one of the most important countries in Balkan with a great development potentiality and which is opened toward new economical areas. The investments in Albania gave us huge force to step forward. We have invested 300 million euro up to now in telecommunication and banking sector and depending on the regional developments, we plan to make new investments.
How are your investments progressing in our country and can you share with us the investment plan that you have for the future here in Albania?
I want to stress out that the investments made in Albania are highly evaluated and they do have a strategic value for Çalik Grup. Our investments in telecommunication and banking sector will continue but let me stress out that our plan are not limited only o these two fields. Our Group which has invested in Turkey in sectors like energy, construction, finance, media and textile, is one of the most important international groups. Except the banking and financing sectors, another interested field for us is the insurance market. Çalik Grup is planning the creation of an insurance company in the nearest future, which will provide it`s services in the Albanian and Kosovo market.
What has changed in NCB as the majority shares of this bank passed to Çalik? What are your plans in this sector, do you plan enlargement in Balkan?
Immediately after the becoming of Calik Group the owner, NCB has sensitively increased the credits volume given for companies and as such enabling the using of not used funds before to support the economical growth in Albania. NCB has applied the modern banking approach focusing the clients the same as Calik Group in Turkey, meanwhile during the time being of NCB as part of this group, the monetary credits are increased up to 167%, whereas the number of branches is increased up to 100%. In the meantime are employed more than 300 employees. NCN will soon increase the services range. In this framework, except classical products, it will provide new creating products fitting the needs of Albanian people. It has started the work for the association 'know how' (knowledge’s) of NCB for individual banking products provided by Aktif Bank in Turkey in order to provide the same products to Albanian clients. It is of a great importance for our Group to contribute for the growth of leaving standards for Albanians through products focusing the full filament or individual needs. We believe that that the new internet page of BKT will be the best page of internet in Albania for facilities and variety of processes provided for the users. Another issue on which Çalik Group is working through our companies BKT and ALBtelecom is the distribution of financial services through internet and telephone. Through this service which among other requires knowledge’s and use of high technology, every institution or person will have the possibility to enter into financial services from anywhere. We will continue the enlargement in any other Balkan countries for which we think we can create synergy. In the framework of enlargement policy in Balkan, we have opened the first branches in Kosovo. Actually the number of branches there is 6, but quite soon it will reach 10. In the framework of this extend policy; we are working that in a near future to act in financial sector in another Balkan state.
Your Group has invested in the newest GSM operator, Eagle Mobile. How much did you invest till now and what is your future investment plan. How much competing do you consider Eagle Mobile in the mobile phone market in Albania?
Eagle Mobile, as the newest mobile phone operator in Albania, finished the within a short time of 6 months the network investment covering with signal all Albania. Such an investment and service provider in a short time is a reason for us to be proud of that. This fact is highly evaluated in the European market of GSM operators. We have a consolidated and a dynamic staff which has given a very good example of the work done. Our Group has invested up to now 50 million euro for Eagle Mobile only and will continue to invest in the future as well. Our goal is to make Eagle Mobile the most desired and popular operator for Albanians. I want to emphasise that we are firm to provide the top quality service of acceptable prices in the telecommunication field for Albanians. The market bids and campaign have had a very positive reaction by the clients and the number of subscribers is enhancing so fast. I am deeply certain that Albanian people deserve the best. The 250,000 number of subscribers which has increased in a short time, shows that Eagle Mobile was an wishful operator and we are happy that we could fulfil properly this expectation. We believe and we target to own 20% of the market in year 2009. Our concept and view for the market is based not only in tariffs but also on the quality service competition for the services provided by us. I can say for sure that we were very successful in this point. The checking’s we did show that the voice quality transmitted by Eagle Mobile is far better than the other operators.
How much are the investments made in ALBtelecom up to now what is the future plan. How aggressive you think to be in the market?
Let me to mention first that ALBtelecom is considered by us as the most strategic investment. Our investments in ALBtelecom are still going on in this direction. Firstly we are concentrated on serious investments for ALBtelecom network and infrastructure to modernize and increase its capacity. We will sensitively increase in this way the quality service and extend their scope. The second direction we concentrate our investments in ALBtelecom deals with having a new image and concept for the service toward clients. As such we will continue with our investments during all this year. To be more straightforward let me declare that the investments in ALBtelecom for the past year were 13.5 million euro, whereas in year 2009 we plan to invest 32 million euro.
What is your estimation for Albanian market concerning investments potentiality and circumstances to make business (political situation, legal system, tax level, administrative barriers, autocracy etc.)?
I think that Albania is becoming so fast as the most attractive place for foreign investors considering also the fact that that Albania is the gateway to West Europe. During recent year, Albania has made important steps to improve the business circumstances and it is also stepping forward in this direction. The following years will give the results of these reforms, but the implementation of these reforms will be the best success. We trust on the cooperation importance between private investors and state institutions as this cooperation will make possible the best service provide to the Albanian consumers both on telecommunication area and banking system. The reforms will open for certain the way for many foreign investors. I am sure that the steps made by the government to avoid the burocratic obstacles are welcomed by the businesses. We think that the potentiality of a new population and dynamic Albanian market associated with important investments which are made and will be made in areas like energy, telecommunication and tourism will be the engine of Albanian economy development. We trusted the Albanian capacity and we invested in two very important areas. I am quite sure that our investments in telecommunication and banking system are the best proof of trust that our Group has for Albania.
Do you have plans for other investments in Albania and to be more concrete in which areas. How do you estimate Albania from strategic point of view as a gateway to Balkan market?
As you mentioned in your question, Albania has a key position in Region. Albania had in recent years a visible development in economical area and other areas as well. Considering our expertise in energy and construction areas, I can say that we will evaluate the possibility of investing in this direction in order to help the economical growth of Albania. We will continue to search for new opportunities to help the development and improvement of living standards in such a beautiful place.
As you know Kosova became Independent last year in February, meanwhile Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize this independence. Do you have plans of investments in Kosova. Some important entities of this country are under the privatization process?
Kosova is important to our Group and to Turkish considering the fact that there is a considerable number of Turkish citizens of Turkish nationality living in this country. We want to create new opportunities and especially on financial area to this small but important country for Europe. We recently opened a branch of National Commercial Bank in Prizren, one the biggest cities of Kosova. This initiative from us on financing area can be a good starting in the framework of European integration of the whole region. Our plans for Kosova develop as well in this direction.
Çalik Grup is well known as investor in textile area. What do you think, is it of interest to invest in this area in Albania considering the fact that the cost of labour power in Albania is lower than in Turkey?
The textile sector presents a special part of our Group as the traditional part of it. Till now we had successful investments in this area. More investments in this area are important for us, but the telecommunication and banking areas are the priorities of our development strategy.
The world is having an economical crisis now. Will this crisis affect your investments in Albania?
I think this crisis will not have a negative impact in a short term because the international financial institutions and foreign banks do not have much influence on Albanian financial system. If there will be a dropping of Direct Foreign Investments in country, then the impact will be on a long term perspective. As you may know, this may affect the migrant’s incomes and their remittances through the dropping of the currency amount entering the country. On the other side exists the possibility of making investments in a low lost because of the crises in other countries. I want to emphasise that we are following carefully the consequences of economical crises. One of the main and important features of our group besides investments is the covering of the risk. As a result of that, we have undertaken measures to face the world economical crises. The investments that “Çalik Group” did in Albania are of a special importance and strategic ones. For this reason, this beautiful place must be seen as a gate for hope which will offer new opportunities values to Europe. Our group pays a special attention to financial and telecommunication areas and because of that we will continue investing in these two important sectors. There is no reason to think that we will delay the terms of investments in these two areas.
“MONITOR” Magazine, January 2009