Two Fortress-backed companies reportedly in trouble

The publicly listed private equity firm is trying to keep afloat two of its portfolio companies, Gagfah, a German real estate company, and Intrawest, a ski resort company, that are both burdened by debt, according to media reports. Gagfah said the report was not true.

A German real estate company operated by publicly listed private equity firm Fortress Investment Group has denied reports it is trying to raise equity to prevent it from spiralling into bankruptcy.

Gagfah, a former German state-owned housing group, was reportedly seeking to raise equity to comply with its debt obligations, according to the Financial Times. The report also said another Fortress-backed portfolio company, the ski resort company Intrawest, was struggling with $1.6 billion in debt that was coming due on 23 October.

However in a statement Gagfah said it had no need to raise additional equity or debt. The company said its debt begins maturing in 2010, and the bulk of the company’s debt will mature in 2013. “There is no truth whatsoever to today’s report rumors,” Gagfah said.

Fortress declined to comment.

Fortress bought Intrawest, which owns the prominent Vancouver ski resort, Whistler Blackcomb, in 2006 for $2.8 billion. Whistler will be among the host venues for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Fortress bought Gagfah in 2004 in a €3.5 billion deal.

Reportedly Fortress has approached potential and existing lenders about a refinancing of $1.4 billion of Intrawest’s senior debt, according to the FT. Fortress is injecting $100 million to shore up the company’s equity value. There is a small chance the company will file for bankruptcy, the article said. Investors in Gagfah were reportedly asked to provide additional capital to help the company meet the terms of its debt, the report added.

Fortress – which has two publicly traded real estate investment vehicles, Newcastle and Eurocastle – last month said it would not issue a dividend for the third quarter in an attempt to shore up its capital base and invest in the financial services sector. The decision came amid a significant slowdown in the firm’s fundraising.

New capital devoted to Fortress’ private equity franchise dropped 71 percent for the 12-month period ending on 30 July, compared with the same period last year, although the firm grew its total assets under management by 23 percent in that time. 

Across all of Fortress’ investment vehicles, the firm raised about $2.2 billion in the three months ending 30 June, down from $5.9 billion in the same period in 2007. Earlier this year, Fortress held a roughly $500 million first close on its sixth private equity fund. The firm did not disclose the target for the vehicle, but its fifth buyout fund closed on $5 billion last year.