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AB Ports spurns bid by Goldman Sachs-led consortium

AB Ports spurns bid by Goldman Sachs-led consortium

LONDON: Britain’s largest ports operator Associated British Ports Plc. rejected an indicative takeover offer of 2.2 billion pounds from a Goldman Sachs-led consortium Wednesday.

The company said in a statement that its board considered the non-binding indicative offer and concluded that it is wholly inadequate.

The offer had been in cash at 730 pence-a-share. AB Ports has large properties, including land used for the port operations. It handles a quarter of Britain’s seaborne trade and has four port operations in the U.S.

British ports have become attractive targets for offshore investors in view of their income sources, large property holdings and improving shipping operations around the world. Recently, Dubai Ports World had bought Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co., the U.K.’s oldest port company, for $6.8 billion, while an Australian investment fund had annexed PD Ports for 337 million pounds.

Goldman Sachs said it is working with Borealis, the investment vehicle of Ontario pension fund OMERS, and GIC Special Investments, the private equity arm of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation to bid for AB Ports, which owns and operates 21 U.K. ports, including Hull in northeast England and Plymouth in the southwest. AB Ports also handles car imports at four U.S. ports.

AB Ports had operating profit of 167.6 million pounds in 2005, with the U.S. operations contributing 4.3 million pounds. The company has said its earnings at the U.K. ports are set to accelerate in the second half of 2006 after the opening of two new facilities at the port of Immingham, on the northeast coast of England.

AB Ports shares dropped 14 pence to 717 pence Thursday, which analysts said has been as a result of the stock going ex-dividend.

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