TBY talks to Azad Ibrahimov, President of the ANT Group of Companies, on the construction sector, overseas experiences, and the outlook for the future.

Azad Ibrahimov

ANT Group has a substantial presence in the Azerbaijan construction market. What are some of the major projects that ANT Group has been involved with in the country?

ANT group was established in 2002. When we started, we were involved in residential construction projects; we had one complex of five apartment blocks. Later on, we directed ourselves toward other areas of the construction sector, such as parking lots and different types of infrastructure. We complete our projects from A to Z, providing the cement, machinery, and all technical aspects, such as excavation techniques. We also develop the exteriors of our projects, providing such things as glass panneling. In Baku, for example, we are building an 18-story residential block in collaboration with the government. The building on the site was crumbling, and the residents were moved away for the duration of the construction. Even though all the flats weren't insured, the government took the initiative to provide the residents with housing while their new flats were being constructed. Another project, also under development in collaboration with the government, is the army academy. Furthermore, we are developing a campus project in Dagestan for the Azerbaijan State Economic University, an Olympic complex with a hotel in its facilities, many different residential projects, and the Baku car market, among many others. I would like to stress the fact that all of our projects are developed in compliance with European and international standards. Overall, we aim to further diversify our business lines in the future, and one of the new areas we are entering is furniture making.

ANT Group has also spread its construction operations overseas to countries such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Libya. How has this experience been?

Following the achievements gained in the internal market and taking into account the high-level of demand for construction works abroad, our company entered the foreign market by bidding for both state and private sector tenders in Russia and Libya. Our aim is to provide contractor work abroad. Our operations in Libya suffered a setback with the onset of the recent turmoil. We also have a few projects in Russia, but our focus is mainly in Azerbaijan. Whichever field or country our company operates in, our mission is to guarantee quality, confidence, and customer satisfaction while strictly complying with health and safety standards. The ANT Group of companies has fulfilled customer requirements and expectations in terms of quality and design, applying the latest technological developments in engineering and architecture. We lay secure foundations in accordance with the latest and best developments in the sector. We aim to establish strong alliances both in Azerbaijan and abroad with our business partners to develop a long-term strategy plan for investment in Azerbaijan.

What makes the Azerbaijani construction market unique?

Azerbaijan is moving closer to European standards in terms of construction. Our aim is to reach these standards in the construction of buildings, and protect Azeri architecture, which has a long and vast tradition. Therefore, we always aim at merging modern technologies in the construction sector with a certain leaning toward Azerbaijan's architectural heritage. In this regard, we have played a significant role in establishing a high level of standards and our company was awarded the International Quality Management Certificates ISO 9001:2000 in 2005, and OHSAS 18001 in 2007.

What are the challenges Azerbaijan faces in the construction sector?

Of course, in every area, there are some challenges. The global economic crisis also affected Azerbaijan. However, we are considered trustworthy; we always keep our promises, and deliver our orders on time. Having a whole group of companies working in the same sector enables us to develop any project from A to Z, and that's something that sets us apart as well. These days it is hard to sell apartments because home loan interest rates are still high. I strongly believe that they should be reduced a little more, which would boost the market. The government is taking care of the issue, talking with the Central Bank, and trying to make it easier for people to buy their own homes. I would like to add that the ANT Group of companies is an important player within the real estate sector through ANT Realtor, a company that was established more than eight years ago. Our main advantages are price, fast registration, safety, and legal clarity.

What is your general outlook for the construction sector over the medium term?

We will be working over vast tracts of land to develop private homes in Baku in the near future. Also, we are planning the construction of businesses and shopping centers. Altogether, it will be an important part of the future urban development of Baku, a city that has modernized its landscape in the last few years and will further do so in the future, thanks to the growth of the construction sector in our country. As for our group of companies, we are one of only eight companies that have a governmental construction license, and this is a huge benefit that we are determined to take advantage of, for in the last years we have gained the trust of all Azerbaijani people thanks to our projects.