Britain’s largest ports and ferries operator, P&O, has received an approach from Middle Eastern rival Dubai Ports World (DPW). The move was announced yesterday and could value the company at £3Bn.
The approach from the state-owned DPW is likely to set off a bidding war with other container shipping companies such as; Temasek, AP Moeller-Maersk and Hong Kong’s Hutchinson Whampoa, all vying for P&O’s waterfront assets.
DPW was created just one month ago when Dubai Ports Authority and Dubai Ports International merged. It is being advised by Deutsche Bank on the bid. The company is unlikely to have funding difficulties, as it is owned by the Gulf state’s government and therefore its ruling family.
P&O is the world’s fourth largest container terminal operator and is the only publicly listed global ports operator. A spokesperson for P&O has confirmed that the company has received an approach from a third party, although they maintain that amid the press speculation, the approach remains “a very preliminary contact” and may or may not lead to an offer for the company being made.
Unions have immediately expressed concerns over the announcement and the 3,000 UK jobs that could be affected. Steve Todd, national secretary of the RMT Union says: “We would be concerned if the company is sold as a whole”. He also goes on to stress: “We would be looking for immediate assurances that jobs would be safeguarded.” P&O declined to comment at this stage on the future of job security within the company. P&O has 27 container terminals and logistics operations in more than 100 ports, with a presence in 18 countries.