ANKARA — BMC, a joint Turkish-Qatari venture that manufactures armored vehicles and tanks, is in the late stage of negotiations to sell a majority stake of Turkish shares to a Turkish steel producer, sources told Defense News.
BMC is producing the Altay, Turkey’s first indigenous next-generation battle tank.
BMC’s Turkish shares are owned by Turkish businessmen Ethem Sancak and Talip Öztürk, both of whom are close aides to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Sancak previously was a senior official at Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party.
Sancak-Öztürk will sell 51 percent of their shares to Tosyalı Holding, a leading iron and steel producer, which also has close ties to Erdoğan. Tosyalı operates three facilities on three continents and produces six million tons of steel annually. The company employs over 10,000 people. Its other business interests include maritime, port operation, foreign trade and power generation.
“The parties have come close to finaliz[ing] this deal. They are presently [negotiating] final financial details,” one senior BMC official told Defense News.
Based on 2020 defense revenue, BMC ranked 89th in the Defense News Top 100 annual rankings with the equivalent of about $533 million dollars.
After failing to win German export licenses for a power pack that would include the engine and transmission for the Altay, BMC recently agreed to receive the technical know-how, through Hyundai Rotem, with two South Korean defense technology firms: engine-maker Doosan and S&T Dynamics, which produces automatic transmissions.
Turkey had hoped to power the Altay with the German MTU engine and RENK transmission, but talks with German manufacturers in recent years failed due to a federal arms embargo on Turkey. Germany is one of several European governments that have limited exports to Turkey over its involvement in the Syrian civil war.
Company sources said the tests to determine whether the South Korean’s plan will fit into the Altay would take several months. The Turkish government was originally hoping to put the Altay into the army’s inventory in 2020.
The multi-billion dollar Altay contract involves the production of an initial batch of 250 units, life-cycle logistical support, and the establishment by the contractor of a tank systems technology center and its operation. As part of the contract, BMC will design, develop and produce a tank with an unmanned fire control unit.
The Altay program is broken into two phases: T1 and T2. T1 covers the first 250 units, and T2 involves the advanced version of the tank. Turkey also plans to eventually produce 1,000 Altays, to be followed by an unmanned version.
The deal has proved politically controversy, particularly after the Erdoğan administration leased for free a military-owned tank and turret factory by the Marmara Sea to BMC for a period of 25 years.
Burak Ege Bekdil is the Turkey correspondent for Defense News.