Trend presents interview with Murat LeCompte, the newly appointed Chief of External Affairs at SOCAR Turkey Enerji A.S., a Turkish subsidiary of Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR.
Q: Mr. LeCompte, you have great work experience in the biggest oil companies. How did you start working for SOCAR Turkey Enerji?
A: I have been working since I was a student. I worked in various sectors including tourism and hospitality. After working in technology companies for 15 years, in 2006, I switched to the energy sector. During this period, I had the opportunity to learn a lot about SOCAR, the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic, because at the time, the company I worked for was doing a lot of business with SOCAR.
SOCAR, being the largest foreign investor in Turkey, is the company behind very important and large-scale projects in the energy industry. SOCAR entered the Turkish market with the acquisition of Petkim. With massive investments worth a total of $19.5 billion once they are completed, (Petlim, STAR Oil Refinery, Petkim Wind Power Plant (WPP) and TANAP projects), SOCAR enters the industry from the very top, causing excitement among Turkish people. In addition to these large investments, to me, SOCAR stands out among other multinational companies as it is from Azerbaijan, a brother country. I am proud to have joined the company as of June 2017.
Q: In your opinion, how should the company further develop its external affairs? Which innovations should be expected to be made in the company’s foreign policy?
A: As the name suggests, the external affairs department is very comprehensive. We are responsible for all the external affairs from the media and public, to NGOs and educational institutions. ‘Reputation’ occupies a significantly large place in our corporate strategy. We are working toward building upon SOCAR Turkey’s already strong reputation. To ensure this, we have adaptive strategies in place. From my experience, I have realized that building good relations and effective communication with the media, NGOs, the public and the education sector positively contributes to companies. Therefore, we are putting serious efforts into building and maintaining our relations. Additionally, we are introducing Azerbaijan’s cultural heritage and values to our brother country Turkey, thus building a cultural bridge between the two countries.
Q: SOCAR has good relations with the Turkish government. SOCAR is the biggest investor. Do you feel the support of the Turkish authorities?
A: You are familiar with the famous quote by Heydar Aliyev, national leader of the Republic of Azerbaijan, on Turkey-Azerbaijan relations: “One nation, two states.” This lasting ideal represents the two countries’ mutual attitude towards each other. As you have also mentioned, SOCAR is the biggest foreign investor in Turkey. We bring to life all of these investments thanks to the vast support we receive from the Turkish government. So, indeed we feel Turkey’s generous support in our investments and projects.
Q: How does SOCAR intend to further develop its business in Turkey? Do you plan to increase its market share in this country?
A: SOCAR executes all of its investments in Turkey through SOCAR Turkey, its affiliate which began its operations in 2008 with acquisition of Petkim. SOCAR Turkey’s aim is to place Turkey among the world’s most important energy corridors on the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey. SOCAR’s investments in Turkey are also crucial for strengthening Azerbaijan’s economy. Operating in petrochemicals, a critical industry for Turkey, SOCAR Turkey increases its trade volume day by day without feeling the impact of fluctuating oil prices.
The TANAP pipeline will carry Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz gas to Europe. The Azerbaijani natural gas will play a very important role in meeting Europe’s need for natural gas in the upcoming period, as in 2020 TANAP will be providing 10 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe. Our goal is to effectively communicate these facts both to the public and to the relevant institutions. Among SOCAR Turkey’s companies and projects are Petkim, PetLim, the Petkim Wind Power Plant (WPP), and the STAR Oil Refinery scheduled for starting its operation in 2018, and large-scale investments such as TANAP, due to start the gas supply in 2018. Total worth of the investments has already climbed to $12.6 billion, and it is estimated to exceed $19.5 billion once all the current investments are completed. Building a second petrochemicals plant in the upcoming period is on our agenda. I believe that this would be a great investment for Turkey, which is suffering from a serious deficit in the petrochemicals industry, and it would also be very profitable for us in terms of increasing our market share.
Q: Which social projects is SOCAR implementing and planning to implement in the future?
A: Supporting local and global institutions operating in education, sustainable development, sports, and culture serves as a key point for SOCAR’s principles worldwide, and SOCAR Turkey also adopts the same set of principles. SOCAR Turkey not only contributes to Turkey commercially, but also supports education with the schools it builds. The Heydar Aliyev Schools opened in Izmir, Adana, Kars, Ankara and Kocaeli between the years 2012 and 2017 with a total student capacity of 5,200 constitute one of SOCAR Turkey’s most important social responsibility projects. Moreover, there is the Heydar Aliyev Park in Ankara. We are aiming to support local development with our environmental, cultural, and educational projects in Izmir Aliaga, where our investments are focused. Accordingly, we currently conduct a number of social responsibility projects, including the “Smiling Caps, Smiling Faces” project carried out in collaboration with the Aliaga City Council, Petkim’s 50th Anniversary Olive Grove, Kizilay – Petkim Blood Donation Campaign, SOCAR & Petkim Sports Club Basketball Team Sponsorship, Petkim Sports Club Association, and Koc University Anadolu Scholarship Program.