Global poised to enter Turkish market?

The long-awaited entrance of an international office products reseller into Turkey could finally become a reality this year.

The long-awaited entrance of an international office products reseller into Turkey could finally become a reality this year.

There has been talk of one of the globals buying into the Turkish OP market for several years, but various factors – the financial crisis, the local political situation, the lack of a suitable acquisition target, for example – appear to have held people back.

Apologies at this stage to Office 1, so often a pioneer in emerging markets where others fear to tread and which has already been present in Turkey for several years with its master franchise partner Ofma.

Now it appears the stars are aligned for one of the majors to make a move, and talk at this week’s Ofis show in Istanbul was about when, not if, a deal would be struck.

While many other European markets struggle to achieve growth, Turkish GDP was up by 8% in 2011 and is predicted to grow by a further 4% this year. With its young, upwardly mobile – and large – population, it’s becoming a market which is difficult to ignore.

A level of stability has been reached on the political side with the current Prime Minister Recep Erdogan having been elected for a third term in office last year.

And there are at least a couple of local firms that have developed a structured B2B contract stationery business which would interest the global players.

To a certain extent they already have. Staples has a partnership with Aktuel which it inherited from its Corporate Express acquisition, and it turns out that Lyreco has been cooperating on its international contract fulfilment with 2011 EOPA winner Akoffice for the last two to three years.

It now seems that a move beyond this partnership level is very much on the cards.

OPI visited the head office of Akoffice yesterday where Managing Director Alper Kisa confirmed that the company had met with representatives of no less than eight international companies that have potential interest in investing in the firm.

Akoffice is a division of the Akçay stationery group which also includes a thriving wholesale business and a growing retail presence.

This means that potential suitors could be interested in one or more parts of the business.

It can be assumed that Lyreco, for example, would only be interested in the B2B operations whereas Office Depot and Staples have the potential to also develop the retail side of the business – which may be of more interest to Akçay.

I’ll admit, I’m struggling to find five more potential candidates, but PBS Holding could be an interesting choice as it operates wholesaling, B2B and retail to varying degrees according to specific market conditions. Then there is Unipapel which has not ruled out making further acquisitions following the Spicers deal. Possibly an Italian firm such as Buffetti, which has stated that it may venture out into other markets, although Turkey might not be the obvious place to start.

Kisa says that Akoffice/Akçay will select the partner that best fits with its development strategy, but suggested that the company is looking to make investments in distribution and IT, so presumably the level of investment that an overseas partner would be willing to make would be a factor.

He said that there is no hurry to make a decision, but did not rule out an announcement being made by the end of this year.

You’ll be able to read more about Akoffice in the May issue of OPI magazine when it will be the subject of our monthly Dealer Spotlight feature.