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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

'Salt Bae' diner's owner Sahenk said to start restructure debt talks

Hopes to extend the average maturity of the debt with new loans that will fall due in about five-and-a-half years

Turkish chef Nusret Gokce, left, also known as ‘Salt Bae’, is a favourite of stars such as Diddy and Naomi Campbell. Instagram / Diddy
Turkish chef Nusret Gokce, left, also known as ‘Salt Bae’, is a favourite of stars such as Diddy and Naomi Campbell. Instagram / Diddy

Turkish billionaire Ferit Sahenk’s Dogus Holding will this week start talks with a dozen local lenders to restructure about 40 per cent of its outstanding borrowings, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The group, which owns restaurant chains including Zuma and Nusr-Et – known for its founder chef’s meme “Salt Bae” – is negotiating debt of as much as US$2.5 billion (Dh9.18bn), said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private.

Dogus is seeking to extend the average maturity of the debt with new loans that will fall due in about 5 and a half years, compared with an average maturity now of 2 and a half years, said the people. The company is also pushing to skip principal payments for the next two years to make payments only on the interest, the people said.

About 80 per cent of the collateral for the restructured loans will be covered by the company’s assets, including hotels in Spain, which could be sold and turned to cash if needed, one of the people said. Dogus Holding declined to comment.

Mr Sahenk, once Turkey’s richest man, spent heavily on restaurants, marinas and hotels in Turkey and abroad after selling his 31 per cent stake in Turkiye Garanti Bankasi to Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentariafor almost $5.5bn in three stages since 2010. One of Dogus’ biggest investments is the $1.5bn development of Galataport, a cruise port and a compound of shopping malls on the Bosporus in central Istanbul.

Dogus Otomotiv Servis ve Ticaret, the group’s unit distributing Volkswagen brands in Turkey, rose as much as 2 per cent to 7.6 liras, the highest in a week. Dogus Gayrimenkul Yatirim Ortakligi, Sahenk’s real estate investment trust, rose as much as 3.2 per cent to 2.88 liras.

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Mr Sahenk’s group’s had outstanding loans of 23.5bn liras (Dh20.93bn) as of the end of December, according to its website, up from 21.2bn liras a year ago. The Istanbul-based company will have to make repayments of 7.7bn liras this year and 4.9bn liras next year. The group made principal payments of 7.1bn liras in 2017 against new borrowings of 8.3bn liras in the same period.

The management of Dogus Oto, which had 2.bn liras of debt at the end of 2017, is “planning to extend the maturity of the loans via alternative funding sources in 2018 and is looking at other measures to reduce the overall debt”, Toygun Onaran, an analyst at Oyak Securities in Istanbul, said last month.

Dogus has been disposing of assets to cut debt. Last week, it agreed to sell 17 per cent of d.ream International, which owns restaurant brands including Azumi and Nusr-Et, for $200 million to Singapore state’s investment firm Temasek Holdings and London-based Metric Capital Partners. An initial public offering of d.ream is also in the cards, possibly in 2019, people with knowledge of the plans have said. Dogus’ wider restaurant business is grouped under d.ream, which also has brands such as Da Mario, Fenix, Coya, Gina and Gunaydin.

Dogus has also sold its stake in a joint venture to build a shopping mall in Izmir, western Turkey, to its partner Orjin Group. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is also considering a $87m investment in the group’s D-Marinas, which has 10 marinas in Turkey, Greece and Croatia.

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