July 2 (Bloomberg) — KKR & Co.’s Turkish ferry unit, its sole investment in the country, has attracted binding bids from Danish shipping company DFDS Group A/S and an alliance of private-equity firms Esas Holding AS and Actera Partners LP, people with knowledge of the sale said.
A deal for U.N. Ro-Ro Isletmeleri AS could come as early as this month, according to the people, who asked not to be named because the auction isn’t public. Local infrastructure investor Global Yatirim Holding AS is also interested, the people said, though the company said it hasn’t submitted a binding bid.
KKR, run by Henry Kravis and his cousin George Roberts, bought the roll-on, roll-off freight business for about 910 million euros ($1.2 billion) in 2007 in what was the New York firm’s first Turkish acquisition. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. was hired last year to help sell the 97.6 percent stake.
Unlike most European ferry operators, which specialize in short-sea crossings, U.N. Ro-Ro has developed long-distance Mediterranean routes linking Turkey with Trieste, Italy, on the northern Adriatic, the southern French port of Toulon, and Damietta in Egypt. The sailings allow truck drivers to bypass the Balkan region, where highways are relatively underdeveloped.
A buyer may be chosen before the end of July, according to two people, with the Esas-Actera alliance best-placed to win the contest. The price could be below what KKR paid since U.N. Ro-Ro has debt of around $800 million, three people said. A representative of KKR in London declined to comment.
The ferry company, set up by a group of Turkish transport operators in 1994, lifted sales almost 2 percent to 221.8 million euros in 2012, according to the latest data on its website, as the number of sailings rose 3 percent to 627. The revenue figure represents a 35 percent gain since the KKR purchase, Turkey’s biggest-ever private equity deal at the time.
A purchase by Copenhagen-based DFDS would add U.N. Ro-Ro’s 12 vessels to a 55-strong fleet of ferries and cargo ships.
The Danish company has an extensive ro-ro network in the Baltic and across the North Sea, and also operates on English Channel routes where rail operator Groupe Eurotunnel SA has been barred by regulators from starting a ferry service. DFDS has a single Mediterranean sailing from Marseille to Tunis. Spokesman Gert Jakobsen didn’t reply to e-mailed questions.
Esas Holding, the owner of Pegasus Hava Tasimaciligi AS, Turkey’s biggest low-cost airline, put in a joint bid with Actera, two of the people said. Actera Managing Director Isak Antika didn’t answer calls or respond to e-mails, while Esas Chief Executive Officer Cagatay Ozdogru declined to comment.
Global Yatirim said in a statement that “no board resolution pertaining to an offer exists.” The Istanbul-based company’s owns several cruise ports, including those in the Turkish tourist resorts Bodrum and Antalya and one in Barcelona.
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