Baltic private equity firm Alta Capital Partners has defended its decision to pursue the repayment of an initial fee it paid ahead of its planned acquisition of food group AS Kalev - a deal it terminated earlier this year.

The private equity group, which owns local group Alta Foods, pulled the plug on its plan to buy AS Kalev amid the turmoil in the financial markets and is seeking the repayment of a EUR6m (US$7.7m) fee it paid during negotiations between the two sides.

Alta has taken its claim to court in Estonia and has succeeded in getting AS Kalev's assets arrested after the food group rejected a request for the fee to be repaid.

Anton Sigal, Alta's general counsel, told just-food that AS Kalev's assets could still operate as normal and that the freeze had been placed on the shares of its subsidiaries.

"We terminated the existing agreement due to the adverse developments in the financial markets," Sigal said.

Sigal said AS Kalev had disputed the freeze on its assets and had called for a hearing to reverse the court's ruling.

Sigal said he expected that hearing to be heard "in the coming weeks". An arbitration tribunal is likely to meet to resolve the dispute in the new year, he added.

Officials at AS Kalev had not responded to a request for comment as just-food went to press.