On the eve of the European Football Championship, the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) jointly with the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in France organized a reception involving representatives of the executive authorities, public figures and well-known players of the French team in Paris. The public campaign "Make Your Debut" within the framework of the Championship was presented at the reception. SOCAR is holding this campaign for lighting their participation, as well as other debutants’ at the championship. During the campaign, SOCAR will organize joint viewing areas, as well as an opportunity to feel like a player-debutant in the virtual reality. In his interview to a number of mass media agencies, SOCAR President Rovnag Abdullayev spoke about importance of SOCAR’s partnership with UEFA for the company and for Azerbaijan in the context of access to the European markets and motivation of young talents.
- Mr Abdullayev, as we know, the European Football Championship, whose official partner is SOCAR, starts soon. What benefits does the company intend to get from this cooperation?
- As you know, signing of a partnership agreement between UEFA and SOCAR was announced in 2013. Under this agreement, our company has become an official partner of the national team competitions of UEFA, including the European Football Championship, which kicks off in France, and its qualifying rounds, qualifications of World Championship 2018 in Europe, a partner of the European Championship U-17 which recently took place in our country, and a number of other competitions.
By signing this agreement, SOCAR got in a row with such companies as Coca Cola, Adidas, McDonald's, Hyundai/Kia, Continental, Orange, Turkish Airlines, Hisense and Carlsberg.
Since our goal is to become a global energy company, we consider this cooperation as an opportunity to create a unique platform to enhance the international image of SOCAR Energy as a premium brand in the eyes of the vast number of Euro-2016 spectators in Europe and around the world.
- You have mentioned that SOCAR has global ambitions. How close you are to achieve this goal?
- In fact, today we can say that SOCAR has already gone beyond our region. Remaining a national and a completely state-owned company, SOCAR has been transformed into an international world-class brand.
Along with this, the most important aspect in SOCAR’s development is the fact that ultimate increase of its profitability and business growth positively affect the income of the state, and therefore every citizen of our country.
However, it should be noted that not only Azerbaijan will benefit from the growth of our company, but also our partners in Europe, whom we are already implementing a lot of ambitious projects with.
SOCAR seeks to diversify routes and sources of energy supply to Europe, thus making a significant contribution to the European energy security, and, as you know, the brand image in the eyes of the European audience is particularly important in such a situation.
- Is that why the choice fell on the European Championship, one of the most popular sporting events of the continent?
- Sure. Of course, SOCAR is not a random guest in the sport. Our company is primarily based on the long-term support of sports in Azerbaijan. SOCAR, as is known, it is the sponsor of the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan (AFFA) and Judo Federation of Azerbaijan.
However, in the case of the partnership agreement with UEFA, along with corporate social responsibility, it is of primary importance to promote the company's brand in Europe and worldwide.
We are convinced that this partnership in the long term perspective will contribute to a global image of SOCAR, which will affect primarily our income. And this, as I have stressed before, will be an ultimate benefit for our citizens.
- In order to clarify, could you give some information about these projects?
- You know, the historical significance of the energy strategy of Azerbaijan become more and more apparent over time. Today, the process on development of several ambitious projects in Europe continues.
Firstly, it should be noted that we have already launched implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor project on Azerbaijan's gas supply to Turkey and Europe.
Modernization of Petkim petrochemical complex and construction of STAR refinery in Turkey, creating of SOCAR sales chains in Georgia, Ukraine, Romania, Switzerland, our projects in Malta and Greece may also be mentioned.
All this is expansion, which is of special importance in our development strategy, to the European market.
- How is implementation of these projects going?
- The Southern Gas Corridor project, to which I referred earlier, provides transportation of natural gas from the Shah Deniz field to Turkey and Europe via the Trans-Anatolian (TANAP) and the Trans-Adriatic (TAP) pipelines. The first gas from the field is scheduled to be transported already in 2018.
The Southern Gas Corridor is the largest project of SOCAR, which will supply large volumes of natural gas from the Caspian Sea to European markets. This project, which is worth more than USD 40 billion, has been being in the process of construction, which involves more than 26,000 people at the entire length of the route.
Construction work in Turkey and Georgia proceeds as scheduled. Due to effective cooperation and the changed market conditions we could reduce the costs of pipeline construction. For example, only in the construction of TANAP gas pipeline to this day more than USD 2 billion has been saved. In addition, there are all the necessary permits and approvals for construction of TAP pipeline in Greece. We also appreciate great support of the Albanian Government and its commitment to implementation of TAP project within the Southern Gas Corridor.
The end point of this route is Italy, and we shall continue closely working with the government and our partners to resolve all the problems and ensure progress. In the short term we expect signing of all other contractual arrangements within the TAP since these contracts represent the final component of the Southern Gas Corridor project because the project is one of the key elements of the EU energy policy, capable to ensure the security of gas supplies to Europe in the decades ahead.
In addition, we have significant business interests in Georgia, Ukraine, Romania and Switzerland.
As you know, we are represented by two structures in Switzerland - SOCAR Trading and SOCAR Energy Switzerland, which effectively operate in this country.
SOCAR Trading is the marketing division of the parent company, with the right to sell oil produced from the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli and other Azerbaijani fields. At the same time, the company could develop business with third parties. The volume of trade operations is already close to 50% of its turnover. In general, thanks to SOCAR Trading activities, the country's budget received additional income of USD 1.7-1.8 billion in 2007.
Subsequently, after acquisition of Esso Switzerland and expanding network of filling stations, SOCAR has obtained 158 stations across the country, which are now effectively controlled by SOCAR Energy Switzerland.
I would like to speak a bit more about construction of STAR refinery, which will be the first refinery built in Turkey for the past 40 years. It will also become the first private refinery in Turkey as the only existing refinery was built here by the state in the 1970s. Funds of USD 5.7 billion make it the largest investment in a single project in the whole history of Turkey.
The infrastructure projects in the UAE, Singapore, Greece and Malta should also be mentioned.
You probably know about a very important project - acquisition of the operator of the Greek natural gas distribution network - the DESFA company. Work in this direction continues. This asset, in our opinion, will give SOCAR an excellent opportunity to diversify their investment portfolio.
Besides all, SOCAR Trading is one of three shareholders of the ElectroGasMalta consortium, which has won the tender for the supply of natural gas and electricity of Enemalta and according to this tender, supplies will be shipped for 18 years, which, in turn, will let this island state to switch to gas and abandon inefficient and not eco-friendly oil turbines. In addition, SOCAR Trading plays a key role in this project, being the exclusive supplier of liquid gas (LNG) of ElectroGasMalta.
As you see, all these activities serve to gain a foothold on international markets and increase the capacity of the company's revenue due to adding transportation operations, processing and marketing of hydrocarbons (downstream operations) to the existing successful operations of exploration and production (upstream operations).
- UEFA seems to have no doubt that the partnership, which was mentioned above, will encourage implementation of ambitious plans of SOCAR on its transformation to transnational corporation. This was mentioned in one of interviews of Marketing Director of UEFA Events SA Guy-Laurent Epstein...
- We are pleased with the fact that UEFA realizes what kind of results we want to get from this format of cooperation. Mutual understanding, undoubtedly, will contribute to achieving these goals.
Of course, our partner participation in the European Championship will draw attention to Azerbaijan in general.
For the first time in the history of UEFA, a partner-company acts with the slogan, which mentions the country's name. Let me remind you that our slogan is: SOCAR - Energy of Azerbaijan.
In addition, during the matches of the European Championship, we organize opportunities for observing matches and events in Paris at the Champ de Mars and in the Cultural Centre of Azerbaijan, which will also attract attention of residents and visitors of the French capital to our country and our culture.
The partnership with UEFA is a part of a long-term entering strategy to the European markets.
Thus since 2012, our company has been a partner of the world-famous jazz festival in Montreux, Switzerland, which shows not only SOCAR’s commitment to business development but also helps to shape the image of the company that supports international cultural projects.
This partnership has repeatedly shaped a path for many Azerbaijani talents who could enroll that prestigious jazz festival, illustrating the rich jazz tradition in Azerbaijan to the guests.
SOCAR was also an official partner of the First European Games, held at the highest level in Azerbaijan in 2015.
Considering this experience, we are confident that the partnership with UEFA will be successful as well.
By the way, I would like to point out, that being a partner of UEFA, we tried to speak to perform with a sort of a pioneering initiative.
- It is about a new partnership format?
- Exactly. As you know, we, as a company, which pays special attention to social responsibility, strive to continuously support young talents in various fields namely sports, education or work. For this purpose, we have allocated scholarships in the country and abroad for many years.
I can mention support provided to such projects as Baku Educational Complex of talents, French Lyceum in Baku, Baku Higher Oil School, SOCAR Summer School, scholarships for education abroad, as well as support for independent non-governmental organization Azerbaijan Students Network in Europe, whose purpose is to bring talented young people who can contribute to development of relations between Azerbaijan and Europe through conferences, workshops, seminars, conferences and so on together.
And, as a continuation of the support policy for young talents, we decided to launch "Make your debut" initiative within the framework of the European Championship - 2016.
We ourselves in fact are a kind of debutants in the UEFA family if not we, then who should support the UEFA EURO 2016 debutants, including players, fans and even the countries that will take part in the European Championship for the first time?
- Mr Abdullayev, is there any good news on Euro 2016 Cup for local fans?
- Undoubtedly, first of all we think of the local fans. From June 10 to July 10, at the initiative of our company, there will be a special fan zone in the territory of Baku Olympic Stadium will be, where broadcasting of matches on the big screens will be organized. Organizers will delight all guests of the fan zone with the interesting program, so it's definitely worth a visit.
Thus, I invite all football fans to join us in celebrating this memorable football festival!