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The power behind Turkey

Interview - December 16, 2013
Wadie Habboush, CEO of the Habboush Group, talks to Worldfolio about the energy sector in Turkey, the group's experience and expertise in executing energy and infrastructure projects in the region, and his optimism about stronger economic relations between Turkey and Iraq, which he believes could be the fastest growing emerging markets in the next five years
Turkey is going through an exciting phase at the moment. In a period of global economic recession, Turkey has been the fastest growing economy in Europe, for two out of the last three years, and is even projected to post a respectable GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth figure of 4% for 2013. What impact would you say this economic prosperity has had on the energy sector?

The energy sector is one of the most critical sectors in Turkey as well as in the region where we see lots of economic movements happening that will have global effects on the regional market. So in my opinion, the energy sector is the most important sector for not only the growth of the Turkish economy, but for the economic growth of the greater region. 
With more than 80 years of experience Habboush Group has been a pioneer in the energy sector and is a single source of strategic investment with integrated solutions in financing and project management. Can you give us a brief background of the group?

Habboush Group has been working in the region for many years. We are experienced in operating and executing energy and infrastructure projects in the emerging markets and specifically in this part of the world. In addition to concentrating on the execution and operation of energy and infrastructure projects, we also focus on the development, management and investment integration aspects of the business to achieve what is required to bringing energy and infrastructure projects to completion. 

This means that we call our integrated investment team as well as our execution & operation team to develop, execute, operate and manage be it a power, oil, gas or an infrastructure project or portfolio thereof.
Can you give us a couple of your past achievements such as the biggest projects? 

In Turkey we have previously been involved in power generation projects. We have also been involved in Southern Iraq heavily as well. I think Turkey and Southern Iraq can play an integral cooperative role in the region. These abundant natural resources are just a step away from Turkey. It makes a lot of sense for us to be present here in Istanbul where we feel that as the region progresses forward there should be more of an economic interlinking and sharing of resources cross-border between Turkey and Iraq – two very integral parts of the region.  

So, having a very solid operational capability in Iraq and in Turkey could be a beneficial factor to cross-border economics in this region.  I see cross-border growth in collaboration and cooperation given the economic mutations that have occurred over the past decade in the region. I am bullish on the Turkey-Iraq relationship and potential economic growth that can exist cross border there.
Turkey needs to tap into the abundant resources next door. What are your strategies and investment projections for 2014 and beyond and what would be the added value to the Turkish economy?

We believe in the Turkish economy. We believe that Turkey will continue to grow. If you just look at the macroeconomics, the demographics, the industrial movement and the demand for energy in Turkey, the growth potential is tremendous.  I am optimistic about energy-related investments in Turkey.  

To date, renewables and conventional resources have both provided their pros and cons in terms of operability and feasibility in Turkey.  I believe that it is makes the most economic sense to look at the next-door neighbour.  Iraq is probably the last frontier of its size in the world for natural resource exploration and production, and the huge majority of that sits in Southern Iraq.  

Everyone talks about a 200 billion-dollar oil and gas market according to statistics assessed several decades ago. Three decades of war has slowed down Iraq’s production and development in its energy sector. We have not used the modern day data-gathering to precisely assess and credit the situation of what is there underground yet.  That is why we regularly split our time and are present in Southern Iraq where we are executing projects in the oil and gas fields there.  We have formed strategic alliances with notable international energy and infrastructure companies.  We believe that Iraq should be a valuable source of energy for Turkey and Europe. 

Turkey, likewise, is a valuable market for Iraq’s energy supply as a consumer and transit point.  With that said, there is a strong bilateral economic relationship that already exists but can be harvested even much more.
Many of our readers are looking for companies and sectors to invest in within Turkey. Why should these investors be looking at Habboush specifically?

We have seen a serious and increasing demand for more controls and compliance in the investment world regarding managing funds and investments. This is where Habboush stands out and is able to provide a one-stop shop strategic approach to investors and partners.  We play a major role in protecting the investor and the investment, and work to maximize returns.  Our motto is that we operate locally, but think globally. This means that we believe in bridging local works with global standards and practices.
Do you think the current events both within Turkey and in the region have shaken international investor confidence in Turkey, and if so, what can be done to regain their trust and confidence?

I think that Turkey today is in a very interesting and solid geopolitical position whether you call it the Middle East, the Caspian region or the Eastern European region, Turkey is right in the middle. All these regions are like circles around Turkey, which is the centre point that everybody will need to rely on. So I feel the importance of Turkey’s geography is a key element to economic stabilities of all these regions. Even if we think of the rock bottom, the population in Turkey is highly industrial, growing and young. It is a dynamic populace with a large hardworking and ambitious middle class. What is more, the regulatory atmosphere is well versed and quite engaging to a foreign investor.  I think these are all positive dynamics to encourage an investor and that is why I am here. I believe the potential here is increasing day by day. 
You were one of the key speakers in World Economic Forum MENA in Jordan. You were noted as the “voice of reason” in Iraq and the region. How does it feel to be one of the trendsetters in the region leading the way from strategic investment to facilitating economic growth?

I have always been passionate about this region from a very young age. I find the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia from north to south one of the most interesting regions in the world. This has always been an attractive and interesting area of our world history. The region has always been a major trendsetter for the world. I believe we can create positive economic change having the right intellectual capital. Habboush Group will continue to play an integral role in contributing to the economic and social development of this region as a trendsetter leading strategic investments in this Fertile Crescent.
You have chosen to establish your global headquarters to be in Istanbul. What attracted you to Istanbul and why should other energy companies consider Istanbul as their global headquarters? 

It indeed depends on what you are trying to accomplish as a business. Istanbul is a fantastic cosmopolitan city that truly bridges east and west. Istanbul is the economic capital of Turkey and is logistically convenient as a business hub in the region.  As we have one foot in Turkey and one foot in Iraq, being in Istanbul ensures being close to the domestic markets but also helps us intertwine the cross border relationship we have with Iraq.  The demand for energy investments domestically in Turkey, as well as the transit-capability Turkey has as an energy hub in the region, encourages us and other companies to be present in Istanbul.  
As the CEO of one of the most significant energy companies in the region, if we were to come back here and interview you again in say five years, ideally what achievements or accomplishments would you like to have completed?

Iraq and Turkey could be the fastest growing emerging markets in the next five years.  I would be delighted to see a large increase in energy cooperation and trade between Iraq and Turkey.  I would like to see us contribute and participate in increasing the availability of power to the citizens and growing industries in Turkey and Iraq.  
What final message would you like to send to the readers about Habboush Group or even about Turkey as a whole?

I always extend an open invitation to investors who would like to be pioneers alongside us in the growth development of this region. We believe that the region has potential for abundant cross-border growth.