Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 28 September 2020

Owner of Salt Bae restaurant chain plans asset sale to cut debt

Dogus Holding is looking to sell up to €800m of assets to reduce €2.3bn debt pile

Nusret ‘Salt Bae’ Gokce throws his signature seasoning move.  The partners behind the Nusr-Et steakhouse chain are weighing up a potential stake sale that could place a $1 billion valuation on the business. Getty Images.
Nusret ‘Salt Bae’ Gokce throws his signature seasoning move.  The partners behind the Nusr-Et steakhouse chain are weighing up a potential stake sale that could place a $1 billion valuation on the business. Getty Images.

Turkish billionaire Ferit Sahenk is ready to sell more of his assets as part of an ongoing effort to satisfy a debt-restructure deal struck with banks earlier this year.

Mr Sahenk’s Dogus Holding could dispose of investments worth as much as €800 million (Dh3.25 billion), he said earlier this week. Dogus, which has interests spanning restaurants, entertainment outlets, marinas and car-distribution businesses, wants to cut its €2.3bn of restructured debt to below €2bn this year and to €1.5bn by the end of 2020 through the sales, he said.

“We are determining the assets to be sold by making sure that we don’t weaken our position in the sectors that we have operations in,” Mr Sahenk said. “We are keeping our focus on our core businesses. We have observed significant improvements in our cash flows and Ebitda [earnings before interest, tax depreciation and amortisation] figure this year and had savings of €75m in a short period of time in the group.”

The steps could include an initial public offering of Dogus’s hospitality businesses, Mr Sahenk said.

The shares of companies affiliated with the investment holding company were mixed on Wednesday after surging the previous day. Dogus Gayrimenkul Yatirim Ortakligi, a real estate developer, rose as much as 9.3 per cent to the highest level since June 24 after gaining 6 per cent on Tuesday. Dogus Otomotiv Servis, the group’s unit that distributes Volkswagen cars in Turkey, pared Tuesday's 5.4 per cent rally to trade 1.3 per cent lower at 10:09am in Istanbul.

Dogus has invested a total of $9bn (Dh33bn) in restaurants, automotive, hotels, energy and finance in the past decade, with 83 per cent of them in Turkey, Mr Sahenk said.

Like many other Turkish companies, the owner of the Nusr-Et steakhouse, popularly known by its founder chef’s meme Salt Bae, is struggling to repay foreign exchange loans after the lira plunged. Dogus has been selling hotels and stakes in restaurants, which Moody’s Investors Service said in May amounted to about €625m, to honour the restructure deal with lenders.

The group had plans to sell shares through an IPO of the international restaurants business, D.ream, or Dogus Restaurants Entertainment & Management, in London, people with knowledge of the plan said last year. D.ream has the franchise of Japanese restaurant Zuma, Nusr-Et and other brands.

Dogus Holding signed the loan restructure deal with 12 banks in Turkey, two of which are international lenders, said Husnu Akhan, vice chairman of the group. The restructured loan is a six-year facility, he said.

The billionaire, once Turkey’s richest man, entered the entertainment and restaurant trade after selling his stake in Turkiye Garanti Bankasi to Spain’s BBVA for about $5bn in three transactions since 2010.

Sahenk was speaking after the opening of a $1.7bn cruise port project, called Galataport, which the group is building with a smaller partner, Bilgili Holding, in Istanbul under a 30-year contract with the government. The port in the Karakoy district on the Bosporus is due to start operations next spring and is projected to host 25 million visitors a year.

Updated: August 29, 2019 12:42 PM

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