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By Ebru Tuncay
ISTANBUL, July 9 (Reuters) - Creditors of Turkey’s Dogus Holding, which owns restaurants made famous by the “Salt Bae” internet meme, are at odds over the restructuring of some 2 billion euro in debt, three sources said, the latest fall-out from a foreign-currency debt binge.
Turkish companies have been drawn to cheaper, foreign-currency debt in recent years. But they are now squeezed as a sell-off in the lira drives up repayment costs. Turkey’s firms had $225 billion in long-term overseas loans as of April, almost all of that in dollars or euro, central bank data showed.
Akbank, Turkey’s third-largest listed bank by assets, wants the debt to be collected as soon as possible, one of the sources said, adding the talks were being led by rival lenders Yapi Kredi and Isbank.
“There is a disagreement over the maturity. Akbank does not agree with the loan maturity offered by Yapi Kredi and Isbank,” a second source said, adding the maturity could be between four and six years.
Dogus Holding, Akbank and Yapi Kredi all declined to comment. Isbank said the debt restructuring negotiations were continuing, but declined to give further details.
Dogus’ outstanding loans stood at 23.5 billion lira ($5.2 billion) at the end 2017, up 11 percent from the year before. It the up to 2 billion euro loan is among the debt it has maturing this year.
The company, whose operations include construction, energy and automobiles, sold a 17 percent steak in its Dogus Restaurant Entertainment and Management (D.ream) unit to Singapore’s Temasek and Britain’s Metric Capital in April for $200 million.
D.ream owns the Nusr-Et steakhouse made famous by the butcher-turned-social media star Nusret Gokce, who went viral on social media under the nickname “Salt Bae” in 2017 after posting videos of himself salting meat.
Dogus reported a loss of 2.3 billion lira in 2017 after a 2 billion lira loss in 2016. Sales last year rose 16 percent to 20.4 billion lira.
Turkey’s lira currency has fallen some 16 percent this year, increasing concern about the impact on corporate debt - and local banks.
Conglomerate Gama Holding is in talks to sell some of its assets as part of a $1 billion debt restructuring, sources have told Reuters.
Yildiz Holding, the owner of global food brands including Godiva chocolate and McVitie’s biscuits, signed a deal with its banks to refinance $5.5 billion in debt in May.
Ratings agency Moody’s has warned that there could be a spike in problem loans for Turkish banks if the lira weakens further. ($1 = 4.5180 liras) (Additional reporting by Can Sezer, Ceyda Caglayan and Birsen Altayli Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun Editing by David Dolan)