ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s state pipeline concern Botas announced yesterday the companies shortlisted to supply equipment for a pipeline to carry one million barrels per day of Caspian oil to Western markets. Botas said in a statement that a total of 55 mostly foreign firms had been invited to procure pipes, valves, pumps, drivers and fiber optic cables for the 1,070 km (670 mile) Turkish section of the 1,730 km pipeline to be laid from the Azeri capital Baku to Turkey’s southern port of Ceyhan. A source close to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline project, to cost an eventual $2.9 billion with backing from the United States, said procurement tenders would mean some $700 million in business to be financed by a sponsor group led by BP. The companies include Germany’s Thyssen Mannesmann, Japan’s Kawasaki Steel Corp, Nippon Steel Corp and Sumitomo Metal Industries, Italy’s Ilva, Britain’s Cortis Tube, Turkey’s Pirelli Kablo, Sweden’s Ericsson, France’s Alcatel, Belgium’s Kabelwerk, and Germany’s Ruhrpumpen. Dates of the tenders are yet to be announced, Botas officials said. A sponsor group has assigned Botas to act as the contractor for the Turkish section of the pipeline, for which construction work is scheduled to begin in mid-2002. The pipeline is planned to be operational in 2005. The social security funds for freelance professionals and entrepreneurs (the Merchant’s Fund and the fund for the self-employed, TEBE, for instance) on the whole provide for equal retirement ages for men and women.