By HANDAN SEMA CEYLAN
It’s a bold statement for Aksoy Holding CEO and Vice Chairman Batu Aksoy: “Health is Turkey’s foreign exchange earning area, just like exports. If you ask what will be the next story of Turkey, I will say health.”
Aksoy, who is also a board member and development policies roundtable leader of the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TUSIAD), says international trade, high-end real estate and high-quality health tourism are among the new investment areas of the group of companies, which acts under two holding structures as Aksoy and Turcas. Aksoy holding has just transferred the operation rights of its EUR 200m in projects consisting of 75 independent villas in Tilkicik Bay, Bodrum, to The Ritz-Carlton Residences. The holding is now preparing to build a large curative center in Sariyer, Istanbul.
Under the company’s two-holding structure, Aksoy Holding runs the real estate and tourism projects while Turcas Holding’s main focus is energy and fuel. “We also have an international business line,” Aksoy says, “We went to Nigeria in the middle of the pandemic and partnered with a local company there.” He thinks that Africa offers a great potential for Turkish businesses. However, the group is not obsessed with making investments for investments’ sake, he remarks. “We have the skills and credibility to make the right investment in the right place. We are currently working on high-quality health tourism,” he says.
Turkey is very good at health tourism, according to Aksoy, and offers a lucrative potential for foreign exchange earnings. “We are also getting ready to invest in this area. What we want to do is not a hospital, but somewhat an model project that is a combination of a wellness and medical center. There are examples of this in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. We are planning to build a campus consisting of 65-70 luxury rooms and private villas where we will provide A++ service, including one-week, two-week curtive and detox programs.”
Building in the neighborhood
The location for the center will be Istanbul’s Sariyer district, he adds. “We are also from Sariyer; we love it there.” The company has a 65-decare land in district, very close to Rumeli Feneri and only 25 minutes away from Istinye Park shopping mall. “Nature and sea come together,” he says. “It is close to both the third bridge, the new airport and the city center.”
The land is suitable for the project the company envisions, he thinks. “Every project we have made has put its own signature on the area it is located. This will also be a signature project. The average stay of a tourist in Istanbul is one-and-a-half days, which is very low. If we can increase this to an average of three, we will double the tourism revenues of Istanbul,” says Aksoy. Such an increase is not possible with any single project, he cautions, but Aksoy Holding hopes to make a an important contribution.
“There is no one in the world who does not know Istanbul. But projects like ours and GalataPort are important to mark the city’s global fame. “
Although it is not their main business line, Aksoy Holding is a good hotel investor. They put Conrad Istanbul Bosphorus in operation in 1992, when Turkey was the scene for a lot of hotel openings with incentives by Turgut Ozal government. “Conrad is the most iconic hotel of that craze,” Aksoy says, adding that 30-years of experience there have given them the ability and understanding to work with international brands. That is how The Ritz-Carlton Residences got the operation rights of Aksoy Holding’s recent EUR 200m project consisting of 75 independent villas in Tilkicik Bay, Bodrum.
Aksoy Holding named the project in Tilkicik Bay Epique Island with a vision to turn it into a global brand. “Conrad is the high-end brand of Hilton, and the Ritz Carlton is the same for the Marriott group. We talked to Ritz Carlton Residences, a Ritz brand that manages its non-hotel residential projects. Epique Island is the Ritz’s first project outside the U.S. They came, saw this place and liked it very much. With a 30-year contract, we have also guaranteed the service quality here. It’s now part of a global brand.”
Looking into international trade
Aksoy and Turcas holdings and their subsidiaries directly employ 2,000 people, reaching 15,000 with indirect employment. Shell & Turcas Petrol AS, the group’s main business in oil and energy has a network of more than 1,100 Shell branded fuel stations throughout Turkey, 15 fuel terminals and a mineral oil production facility in Derince. Thus, they have achieved a net sales revenue of TRY 34.5bn with the sales of 4.2 million tonnes of automotive fuel and mineral oil in a pandemic year like 2020, Aksoy notes. The company commissioned the Denizli Natural Gas Combined Cycle Power Plant with an installed capacity of 800 MW in 2013 under RWE & Turcas Guney Elektrik Uretim A.S., the joint venture company established with the German energy giant RWE AG. RWE & Turcas reached net sales revenues of TRY 1.55bn in 2020. They are also the owner and operator of Turcas Kuyucak Geothermal Power Plant, which reached net sales revenues of TRY 64m in 2020 with its 18 MW installed capacity.
Aksoy says that the company is also assertive in international trade with Aksoy Middle East and Aksoy Nigeria, the subsidiaries of Aksoy International Trade.
AN ACCIDENTAL DISCOVERY
The Aksoy family had a summer house next to Tilkilik Bay in Bodrum and Erdal Aksoy, Batu Aksoy’s father and the founder of the holding, takes long swims. “He swims for miles every day. In fact, while my sister’s son Kaan was taking swimming lessons, my father took swimming lessons with his grandson so that he could breathe for a longer time,” Aksoy recalls. While swimming in 2013, Erdal Aksoy saw a barren peninsula and made an excited call to his son and his sister. “Let’s get this place and build a very nice project.” The economy was better in Turkey at the time, as well as the rest of the world, Aksoy remembers. “I was in Istanbul with my sister and highly focused on energy projects. We said: ‘We are very busy anyway, let’s not get into trouble. We are not a contractor either’. But my father, my sister, and I always do business by consensus. We convince each other, we become convinced. ‘If we don’t buy this place, someone else will get it and something worse will be done on it,’ he said. There was multiple ownership, but we bought it all to preserve its integrity. We established a Real Estate Directorate within our holding. We started to work with a very experienced team in real estate. We dealt with permits, licenses, architecture. We started the construction on this place in August 2015.”
STEPPING ON THE GAS DURING THE PANDEMIC
Aksoy Holding started the construction of an A++ building consisting of 75 independent residences on a 126-decare site in Tilkilik Bay in 2015. Teak wood was used and kitchen and bathroom fittings were all high-end. However, it is not easy to build in a place like Bodrum, where there is a ban on construction for five months during the summer period, according to Batu Aksoy. So the construction was completed in four years. “We preferred horizontal construction, did not even use the limit permitted to us,” Aksoy notes. “We made built according to the structure of the land and the landscaping according to the vegetation of Bodrum. When the pandemic started, we had completed 95% of the project. But the remaining 5% of every project is the hardest part with the finishing work. We decided to step on the gas at a time when everyone was going under lockdown at their homes. I am glad we made it because the demand for isolated living has increased all over the world with the pandemic. A place like this, with such sea, beach, service and clean air was everyone’s desire. The Turks also showed interest in the project. When flights restarted, foreigners also came. We are used to seeing Russians, Azeris and Arabs in these kind of luxury purchases but the Europeans also began to spend this money for their own comfort. We have sold more than 50 of the 75 villas.”