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KKR to Sell Turkish Ro-Ro Ferry Unit to Esas-Actera Venture

KKR & Co. agreed to sell its Turkish ferry business to a partnership of local private-equity firms Esas Holding AS and Actera Partners LP.

Terms of the purchase of U.N. Ro-Ro Isletmeleri AS won’t be disclosed, according to a statement from Esas, owner of Turkey’s biggest low-cost airline, and Actera, its top buyout specialist. The price paid was about 700 million euros ($936 million), 50 million euros more than the company’s net debt, said a person with direct knowledge of the deal who asked not to be named.

KKR, run by Henry Kravis and his cousin George Roberts, purchased the roll-on, roll-off freight company for about 910 million euros in 2007 in what was the New York firm’s sole 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 and the southern French port of Toulon. The sailings allow truck drivers to bypass the mountainous Balkan region, where highways are still relatively underdeveloped.

Antitrust Clearance

KKR’s deal with Esas and Actera remains subject to antitrust clearance from the Ankara-based competition board, four people with knowledge of the agreement said before the transaction was made public, asking not to be identified.

Danish ferry company DFDS Group A/S withdrew from the auction process, the Copenhagen-based company said yesterday.

U.N. Ro-Ro, 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.

Morgan Stanley acted as financial adviser to the Actera-Esas partnership, according to today’s statement.

Esas, owner of discount carrier Pegasus Hava Tasimaciligi AS, is a private equity and investment firm set up by Sabanci family members who broke away from Haci Omer Sabanci Holding AS. Actera was founded by former Merrill Lynch banker Isak Antika.

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