The Business Year

Levent Kafkaslı

AZERBAIJAN - Real Estate & Construction


President & Board Member, Tekfen Construction


Levent Kafkaslı was educated at Istanbul Technical University, graduating with a BSc from the Civil Engineering Department in 1987. He received his MBA in Construction Management from the University of Istanbul in 1988. He started his professional career in 1988 as Site Engineer at various companies. He joined Tekfen Construction and Installation in 1990. He was Site Engineer, Company Representative, Head Office Coordinator, and Project Manager at different sites, respectively, until 2005. Before this, he was Vice President in Azfen JV from 1999 to 2000, and appointed as Vice-President of Operations, responsible for the Caspian Region in 2005. In May 2013, he was appointed as Board Member and President of Tekfen Construction.

TBY talks to Levent Kafkaslۼ, President & Board Member of Tekfen Construction, on the company's current projects, TANAP, and balancing the workforce.

Tekfen is contracted to the construction of the Baku Olympic Stadium that is being constructed for the European Games. How did the company cope with the challenge of such a prestigious project?

The project is completely different from any other, because when we first came to this area years ago, it was a dumping site for oily waters; all of the lakes were full of waste oil. We started in November, and the winter months made the work challenging. Improving soil condition, took a long time. In addition, the foundation was a massive job. The challenges occurred from the very beginning. When we started, we knew that we had to stick to our deadline, which was very strict because if we missed it, there would be no European Games. It was a stressful project, starting from nothing to creating a facility for 6,000 spectators in two years time. It is one of the first projects of its kind here, and is significantly different from the Istanbul Ataturk Stadium. We were a construction partner for that project also, whereas here we stand alone.

Tekfen is also involved in two projects at Shah Deniz. What is the significance of your operations in the energy sector?

Tekfen’s main business in this sector involves industrial types of projects and pipelines. We created this part of our company about six years ago, and we have been named as a pipeline contractor for these types of projects. When we first came to Azerbaijan in 1994, we began building relations with SOCAR and became a part of many of their projects. Our existence in Azerbaijan starts from 1996 with the industrial types of projects. Then, projects at the ACG field came up, and we were involved at Sangachal there. After this, we were involved with the platforms for CWP, PCW, and COP. Now, we have two platforms combined with other offshore extension, which are important projects for Azerbaijan. Gas can be brought to markets in Europe because of these projects. We are happy to be a part of this, because we are part of Phase II of these projects. Platforms will help to bring more gas in from the sea, and the terminal will help to get that process fitted with a compressor. A compressor is part of the main facilities. We know this project well because we built up to the previous one. We would like to use our experience in knowing what the client is looking for.

What kind of potential is there for new projects in the energy field in Azerbaijan?

Everyone is talking about the Oil and Gas Processing Complex (OGPC), and we would like to be a part of that; it fits our experience. As a gas processing plant before that, there have been plans to build it up. I am sure it will happen in the near future; however, time runs quickly. If you are not able to get involved in the beginning, then you will miss opportunities. Those are the main areas that we are looking for in Azerbaijan, as well as working on the existing refineries, which may be another situation where we are in the picture. Tekfen is known as an industrial contractor; however, we have shown our civil capabilities through road contracting. We are involved as a road contractor in Qatar, and we constructed the longest highway in Turkey, which was a $2 billion project. We have experience with infrastructure and civil works in Azerbaijan, and Tekfen has shown our capabilities with the stadium and the SOCAR Tower, which is 95% completed. When you drive at night on the main road, you can see the lights on both the stadium and SOCAR Tower.

Tekfen, as a pipeline contractor, has won a tender for Lot 3 of the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) project. What is the importance of being involved in that one in particular?

We have many projects related to pipelines. The most recent of them was the OCP Slurry Pipeline. Tekfen built the largest part of this pipeline as part of OCP’s contract. In Turkmenistan, there was also one constructed of a similar size. For 27 years, we have not built a pipeline in Turkey, and, as this is the very first time, I am telling my colleagues that we are backing a significant project. It is important for Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Europe. There are three lots in total. Lot 1 will be about 300km from the border, Lot 2 is also in the same area, and then we have Lot 3, which is our section, is about 509km away. It will be quite challenging and extensive.

What is the balance between Turkish and Azerbaijani workers?

When we started working in Azerbaijan in 1996, we worked together as an alliance with Azfen. When civil works came out, because of SOCAR, we decided that Azfen would carry the flag for industry and civil works. For other types of projects, we work together. Due to the fact that we have been here since 1996, we have really minimized the Turkish workers, because we have been involved in so many projects. Continuity has given us the advantage to train people and not lose them for the most part. Training is important for this sector, because qualified workers are a necessity. Trained people are part of the pool that we choose from for these project types. That means getting a smaller number of workers from the Turkish content, and a larger amount from the Azerbaijani pool for such an experience. One major project might have a really large pool; however, at the same time, when working on many projects, everybody is trying to use the same pool. We have aligned ourselves with SOCAR in Azerbaijan, and once we find out what the project requires and what requirements will be, we will do that. Each and every project has its own way of ticking, because there is always a challenge to meet time deadlines.

What are the competitive adantages of Tekfen?

If you compare the market to 2000, it is tough. Local companies are gaining experience in the market and bringing their own workforce; however, we have expertise in civil and industrial works. We share our know- how with our local company Azfen. Having Azfen is a huge advantage for us, and it was the most logical investment for Tekfen as it is a way into Azerbaijan. For the civil works, we are focusing on large sizes and fast tracks. Each client wants a fast track and with high quality. Cost-wise, we are a reasonable contractor.



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