ISTANBUL – Leading Turkish steel producer Izdemir aims to increase its foreign sales by 30 percent in 2001, boosted by Olympic construction demand from Greece, a senior company official said yesterday. There are a lot of sales to Greece from Turkey these days as the 2004 Olympics is turning it into a building site, Servet Erocal, deputy general manager at Izdemir, told Reuters. They’re building bridges, tunnels and roads in abundance. Turkish firms have increasingly turned to export markets to bypass a domestic economic crisis that began in February and has given rise to an 8.5-percent contraction in GNP in the first six months of the year, the greatest fall since World War II. While Turkey is trying to rescue itself from that crisis with the help of $15.7 billion in IMF and World Bank funding, Greece has been raising its budget for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens to $5 billion from an original $1.6 billion, creating plenty of bidding opportunities for related infrastructure projects. Relations between formerly hostile Turkey and Greece have improved since earthquakes hit both in 1999, and ministers now talk of increasing trade across the Aegean Sea. Izdemir aims to increase exports to $130 million in 2001, almost 30 percent more than the $103 million it posted in 2000. We are concentrating on exports in 2001 as our domestic sales fell by 43 percent in the first half, Erocal said. Our exports exceeded $90 million as of the end of August, and the orders we have received so far show that we can meet our annual export target, he said. Izdemir aims to increase total sales to $160 million in 2001, against $150 million in 2000, by operating at full capacity to produce and sell 760,000 tons of steel. Izdemir has already posted a 16-percent increase in unit sales abroad to 316,488 tons in the first six months of 2001, while domestic sales dropped 43 percent to 56,191 tons. Izdemir also sells steel to Britain, its main European market, as well as Norway and Holland. Izdemir’s main rivals for Mediterranean markets come from Italy and Spain. But lower labor costs give us an advantage over the competition, Erocal said. We see a better business environment and more active domestic demand (in Turkey) in 2002, he said. The company would also complete some projects in 2002 to modernize operations and increase profitability, he added. According to the average of forecasts in a Reuters poll of analysts, Izdemir is expected to report a 3.71-trillion-lira ($3.25 million) net profit in 2001, up from 1.31 trillion lira in 2000.