ECONOMY

Turkcell aims for same rise in new clients as last year

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Leading Turkish mobile operator Turkcell aims to add at least as many new subscribers in 2007 as it did in 2006, its new chief executive said yesterday at his first news conference. Turkcell, which faces increasing competition from Vodafone and rival Avea, added 8.8 million new subscribers in 2006, or 3.9 million in net terms. The target for 2007 was in net and gross terms. CEO Sureyya Ciliv said Turkcell grabbed more than half of the sector’s new subscribers in the last quarter of 2006. «We have a market share of 59.5 percent. We estimate we will preserve that this year,» he told a news conference. Turkey, which is seeking European Union membership, is experiencing fast economic growth as it recovers from a steep 2001 financial crisis. Turkcell ended 2006 with 31.8 million subscribers, 14 percent more than a year earlier. Rival Avea has around 7 million subscribers and Vodafone 12 million. Ciliv, who was named CEO in November and started his new job this month, said he wanted to lead Turkcell into new fields of technology and would use his experience at tech giant Microsoft, his former employer. «We want to leap into other areas of telecommunication, into areas of technology. I will put to use the experience I gained at Microsoft,» he told reporters in an informal meeting late on Monday. He said the company would spend $400 million on investment this year, excluding investment in third generation technology, for which licenses are expected to be issued this year. Ciliv said Turkcell, which plans to bid in a tender for Saudi Arabia’s third mobile license, would use a planned $3 billion syndicated loan to grow both at home and abroad. Turkcell has a cell phone company in Ukraine, Astelit, which has disappointed investors and is ranked third in the country. But Ciliv was upbeat about its future. «I believe we will be second there. There were some management problems there. We will solve them and we will be No 2,» he told Reuters. Turkcell is 37 percent owned by Nordic telecoms firm TeliaSonera, 21 percent by Turkey’s Cukurova Holding and 13 percent by Russian private equity firm Altimo. Ciliv replaces Muzaffer Akpinar, who resigned in June after months of uncertainty and speculation. He said he would not bring major changes to the culture of the company, whose shares also trade in the United States. «We don’t want to change Turkcell’s character or culture. The changes we will make will be with tiny adjustments.»