Private Equity in Turkey: The Business of Kissing Frogs

Selim Kender, a graduate of Columbia Business School and Principal at TurkVen, discusses the peivate equity firm's portfolio companies.Photo: Aziza Jamgerchinova (c) 2013
Selim Kender, a graduate of Columbia Business School and Principal at TurkVen, discusses the private equity firm’s portfolio companies.
Photo: Aziza Jamgerchinova (c) 2013

By Aziza Jamgerchinova

Selim Kender, Principal at TurkVen, welcomes us at the offices of the private equity firm in Ortaköy. White marble steps lead down to a contemporary two-story mansion, the back end of which opens to a seaview terrace.  The views of the Bosphorus are arresting and postcard-worthy.  Inside, a team of 17 professionals make multimillion investment decisions.  The understated design of the office, with its dark wood paneling in the main conference room, gives it a feel of opulence and grace.

Selim joined TurkVen over six years ago, having previously worked at Fortis Bank and Finansbank in Istanbul.  He is a graduate of Columbia Business School.

Working at a private equity fund can be like having to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince, says Selim.  He shows some numbers to prove his point.  TurkVen started by screening over 2,000 companies.  And after a rigorous process to find the best investment fit the firm ended up with 17 deals.  Almost all of TurkVen’s latest deals were buyouts, with the firm acquiring up to 51% equity.

While TurkVen manages only $1.5 billion in assets, today it is the largest shop in Turkey.  Its portfolio assets include supermarket chain Migros Türk TAS; pizza chain Domino’s Pizza Restaurantlari AS; satellite TV provider Digiturk; and cosmetics retailer Tekin Acar, which Selim calls a Turkish Sephora.

In 2006, TPG Capital and local partner Actera Group concocted a $810 million purchase of Mey Içki San. ve Tic. AS, Turkey’s largest producer of raki.  Five years later, Britain’s Diageo bought the Turkish distiller from TPG for $2.1 billion.  The splashy exit generated a gain of more than 400%, and that’s what put Turkey onto the global PE map.  Today, all the big private equity players like KKR and Abraaj Capital show heightened interest in Turkey, says Selim.

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