Best crisis management: Why TAV Airports Holding won

Jul 05, 2017
Turkish airports firm takes crisis management gong at the IR Magazine Awards – Europe 2017

It’s often said that it’s in a crisis that IR really shines – and that’s certainly true of Nursel Ilgen’s team at TAV Airports Holding, which this year claimed the best crisis management gong at the IR Magazine Awards – Europe

It’s a win no one could argue with: the company’s entry to the judged award category details how head of IR Ilgen and the team at TAV – along with CEO Sani Şener – worked through the night when a suicide bomber targeted the company’s flagship Istanbul Atatürk Airport (which is also the company’s headquarters and where the IR team is based), killing 45 people in June 2016.

A little over two weeks later, the airport was at the center of protests against an attempted coup. No lives were lost as more than 100,000 people descended on the airport, but there were tanks on the roads, jets bombing the parliament and flights cancelled. The IR team’s own office was also damaged but again the team worked through the night, making itself available on everything from the traditional – email and phones – to WhatsApp. The coup attempt, says Ilgen, ‘added to the already battered security perception of Turkey.’

In both cases, the company managed to reopen the airport at remarkable speed, taking just eight hours to get flights moving again after the terrorist attack. But the number of tourists coming to Turkey declined significantly. ‘As it became evident that our guidance could not now be met, we pushed for an emergency guidance revision,’ explains Ilgen. This was prepared and made it through the board in record time to be announced on July 27, 2016 – less than two weeks after the coup attempt. 

‘We guided for a 20 percent drop in ‘origin and destination’ passengers [those not taking a connecting flight],’ says Ilgen. In the end, this was realized at a close 16 percent. 

The company took a proactive approach to its IR program. ‘Our chairman wrote a letter to our investors, we put an ad in the Financial Times, and we made ourselves available via all communication channels and actively targeted value investors,’ says Ilgen. Between June 28 and the end of the 2016, TAV met with more than 300 investors.

And it paid off. While the share price continued going down for a while, Ilgen explains that ‘long-term investor confidence in the company was bolstered because we made ourselves very available during the crises, communicated all possible outcomes openly, and reacted quickly and proactively.’ 

From the lows after the event, TAV’s share price has recovered close to 60 percent in US dollar terms, and the company ‘gained many new investors as a result of the whole process’ with TAV outperforming the BIST 100 benchmark index in the second half of the year.

So what did the judges have to say? Catherine James, former head of IR at global drinks giant Diageo, noted TAV’s ‘proactive activity’ and commended ‘its level of attention to detail and willingness to take on the work.’ Abigail Herron, head of responsible investment engagement at Aviva Investors, said: ‘Without mentioning the awards specifically, I spoke to an ex-special forces contact about what could reasonably be expected as a response from an airport. He said this was exceptional.’

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