Following its success at last year's Supply Chain and Transport Awards (SCATA), ACT Airlines has received funding from Saudi Arabia's Manara Investments to boost its Middle East operations, explains Yavuz Cizmeci, chairman of ACT Airlines.
ACT Airlines is a relative newcomer in the airfreight market. Can you provide details on the company's operations?
ACT Airlines was initially established in Istanbul around four years ago, although its ownership changed hands in 2006. Since this time, we have obtained the highest industry certification, such as ISO9001:2000 and OHSAS 18001:1999, which has helped to increase our operations around the world, including the Middle East.
This was recognised at the prestigious Supply Chain and Transport Awards (SCATA) in Dubai last year, when ACT Airlines received the 'Air Cargo Operator of the Year' award for its exception customer service.
Earlier this year, Manara Investments, which is owned by four business groups in Saudi Arabia, acquired a 21% equity stake in ACT Airlines. This will help to enhance our operations within the rapidly expanding economies of the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Central and Southern Asia.
Will ACT Airlines increase its focus on the Middle East following the deal with Manara Investments?
The Middle East has always been a target market for ACT Airlines, which explains the interest from Manara Investments. Considering the Middle East's dynamic growth and location near Istanbul, I think it will play an important role in the growth strategy for ACT Airlines.
In fact, we recently helped Empost in Dubai to establish its aviation business and we're hoping to develop similar relationships in the future.
How is ACT Airlines planning to utilise this investment to achieve its development objectives?
The investment will support our aggressive growth strategy for the future. For example, we are acquiring two Boeing 747s this year, which will allow ACT Airlines to extend our range of operations from Istanbul to the Far East and North America. We did not have the capability to service these areas in the past.
What are the advantages of basing your headquarters in Istanbul?
The unique location of Istanbul is a major advantage. The city is nestled between Europe and Asia, which together produce 53-55% of the world's GDP.
Throughout its history, Istanbul has been a gateway for many different people and cultures, so we are adept at dealing with and relating to many different countries.
From a geographic perspective, our natural trading partners would be neighbouring countries, which includes those in the Middle East, Europe and North Africa.
Is the transport infrastructure in Turkey sufficient enough to match the global aspirations of ACT Airlines?
We are just four hours flying time from European cities such as London, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Zurich. Furthermore, we are only two to three hours flying time from Vienna, Kiev, Moscow, Baku, Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo and Tripoli.
Whether it is a mature market like Europe, a rapidly growing market like the Middle East or a developing market like the CIS, being in the middle of them is an advantage that few other locations can match.
The airfreight infrastructure in Turkey is improving at a fast pace through the privatisation of the country's transportation sector.
The deregulation of the market in 2004 opened up fresh opportunities and encouraged the birth of new players like ACT Airlines.These young carriers uncovered a level of pent-up demand and there became an obvious need for infrastructure to be improved.
Such developments coincided with a more sustainable growth scenario as Turkey's GDP grew between 5-9% from 2002 to 2007. In particular, this fostered an increase in international trade leading to an impressive growth in the domestic air cargo sector.
What are your future expectations for ACT Airlines as a market player?
Turkey is currently amongst the fastest growing airfreight markets in the world. Our ambition is creating value for customers and shareholders, while growing the company towards a potential IPO or strategic merger to utilise our capital and human resources.