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Owner of Salt Bae chain plans 800m euro asset sale to cut debt

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

Mr Sahenk's Dogus Holding could dispose of investments worth as much as 800 million euros (S$1.24 billion), he said in an interview in Istanbul late on Monday. Dogus, which has interests spanning restaurants, entertainment outlets, marinas and car-distribution businesses, wants to cut its 2.3 billion euros of restructured debt to below 2 billion euros this year and to 1.5 billion euros 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 figure this year and had savings of 75 million euros 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.

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The shares of companies affiliated with the investment holding company surged on Tuesday. Dogus Otomotiv Servis, the group's unit that distributes Volkswagen cars in Turkey, rose as much as 7.8 per cent to the highest level since July 16. Dogus Gayrimenkul Yatirim Ortakligi, a real estate developer, jumped as much as 15 per cent to its highest level since June 24.

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 amount to about 625 million euros, to honour the restructuring deal with lenders.

Mr Sahenk was speaking after the opening of a US$1.7 billion 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 projected to host 25 million visitors a year.