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Dubai Ports set for £3 billion P&O bid

(Reuters)
Filed on October 31, 2005

LONDON — Dubai Ports World, owned by the Gulf state’s government, is set to launch a £3 billion ($5.35 billion) bid for UK ports and ferries group P&O as soon as this week, the Sunday Times reported.

The newspaper, citing banking sources in Dubai, reported in its Sunday edition that Dubai Ports World (DPW) has hired Deutsche Bank to advise it on a bid, and that a preliminary meeting with P&O was likely to take place within days.

P&O and Dubai Ports World, which manages ports in Asia, Europe, Australia and South America, declined to comment.

P&O, whose full name is Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company, has long been considered a takeover target.

Its stock hit a 4-year high in May on speculation Singapore government investment agency Temasek Holdings Pte. Ltd. was building a stake in the group.

P&O is one of the world’s biggest port operators and earns 70 per cent of its profits from ports in Asia, the Americas and Asia.

Started in 1840, P&O is better known for its cruise ship operations, which have been spun-off or sold in the past five years. It still owns a cross-Channel ferries businesses, which was downsized, in the past year as part of a strategic review.

Analysts have also pointed to Danish shipping giant A.P.Moeller-Maersk as another possible suitor following its takeover of Dutch shipper P&O Nedlloyd this year.

The Sunday Times report said a bid by Dubai Ports World could prompt a bidding war.

A takeover for P&O would add to recent consolidation in Britain’s ports and shipping sector.

PD Ports Plc said earlier this month it had received a takeover approach from an unnamed suitor. Media reports said an Australian bank was likely behind the move.

It followed a £771 million takeover of British ports operator Mersey Docks & Harbour Co by rival Peel Ports in June this year.


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