How Salt Bae's debt-laden steakhouse is highlighting major issues in Turkey's economy

@nusr_et/InstagramNusret Gokce, aka Salt Bae, is a Turkish butcher, chef, and restaurateur.
  • Some serious issues are piling up for the owner of the restaurant chain by Nusret Gokce, the chef and viral meme sensation known as Salt Bae, that’s often frequented by celebrities and sports stars.
  • The steakhouse chain’s owner, a Turkish firm called Dogus Holding, “is struggling to repay foreign-exchange loans after the lira plunged in value,” Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.
  • Dogus is seeking to restructure its debt, having spent big on the hospitality sector in recent years despite the slump in the Turkish economy.

The company that owns the steakhouse chain popularised by Nusret Gokce, the chef and viral meme sensation known as Salt Bae, is struggling to repay its debts amid a major restructuring.

The chain, Nusr-Et, is owned by Dogus Holding, an investment group owned by the Turkish billionaire Ferit Sahenk. Dogus signed an agreement with lenders last December to help restructure its $US2.5 billion in debt but still has a mountain of liabilities in 2019,Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

The company’s liabilities increased last year by 17%, to 28.6 billion liras ($US5.2 billion), Bloomberg reported, citing financial statements on Dogus’ website. It’s part of a broader malaise for Turkish companies struggling to repay dollar-denominated loans following the collapse in the lira’s value last year.

Turkey has entered recession, making lending conditions even trickier for companies with foreign debt.

Sports stars such as Lionel Messi and Paul Pogba have eaten at the restaurant, which was made famous after videos of Gokce cutting meat seductively and sprinkling salt over it went viral in January 2017. Nusr-Et has branches in Abu Dhabi, Doha, New York, Miami, Dubai, and Istanbul.

Dogus is now rapidly selling its hospitality holdings to help pay off its debts. It recently offloaded the Park Hyatt hotel in Istanbul to Nusret Turizm Yatirim AS, owned by Gokce, Bloomberg reported, citing a filing by an antitrust board in Ankara.

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