P&O faces £3bn bid from Dubai
P&O, the ferries, ports and freight business, is bracing itself for a takeover approach from Dubai Ports World that could value the company at up to £3bn.
Britain’s largest ports group, and the fourth largest in the world, said last night it had received an approach from a third party, although it declined
to identify the suitor. In a short statement, P&O said that the contact was “very preliminary”.
Talks between the two companies are thought to be scheduled for as early as this week, with Deutsche Bank appointed by the Middle Eastern group. News of the approach could herald the start of a bidding war.
Dubai Ports World is already a global player but is hoping to become an even bigger force, led by chief executive Mohammed Sharaf. Just weeks ago the state-controlled company emerged as an enlarged group following the unification of the Dubai Ports Authority and DPI Terminals. One of the benefits of the enlarged group, it said, was the “significantly greater ability to grow regionally and internationally”.
The approach to P&O was made while the British company was vulnerable, having cautioned investors about its European business. Its shares rallied however at the end of the week when chairman Sir John Parker announced the addition of four non-executive directors to the board.
The move from Dubai Ports World means that Parker, who took over from Lord Sterling this year, will have to galvanise the board sooner than most had expected. Among the new appointments is Richard Cousins, chief executive of plasterboard manufacturer BPB which has been at the centre of a takeover battle.
P&O’s shares rose 2.22 per cent by the end of last week on news of the appointments, valuing the company at £2.3bn.