Big Istanbul ferry operator IDO in talks to restructure debt

Big Istanbul ferry operator IDO in talks to restructure debt
An IDO ferry crossing Istanbul's Bosphorus strait.
By bne IntelliNews February 8, 2019

One of the world’s biggest ferry operators, IDO Istanbul Fast Ferries Co., has launched talks with creditors to restructure its debt, Reuters reported on February 7.

The ferry operator—part-owned by international transport mogul Brian Souter and other Scottish investors—has failed to meet the repayment demands on a $500mn loan which it obtained to purchase vessels and equipment. Given that its revenues are in Turkish lira, which since the start of last year has lost around a third of its value against the USD in Turkey’s currency crisis, the repayments became more burdensome.

IDO’s creditors have hired the financial advisory and asset management firm Lazard for the debt restructuring talks.

The company’s financial problems came to light in November last year when it announced that it had shut down inner city routes in Istanbul for economic reasons. However, the company later reversed its decision and continued its operations in the city.

In November, IDO said it had only managed to get permission for a limited 22% price increase from the Istanbul municipality in the past three years despite its increasing costs, which it claimed amounted to 85%, Hurriyet Daily News reported at that time.

Bridge lowered demand
The Osmangazi Bridge, built over the Izmit Bay and opened in July 2016, lowered demand for the ferry line running between Kocaeli’s Eskihisar and Yalova’s Topcular piers, according to a statement made by the company.

IDO also pointed to a government incentive provided for the bridge operators, which arrived after the opening of the bridge in 2016.

It claimed that this government incentive created unfair competition.

IDO carries over 48mn passengers and 10mn vehicles each year. Its website says it operates 24 ferries and 19 sea buses.

The Tepe-Akfen-Souter-Sera consortium bought IDO from the municipality for $861mn in 2011.