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26 May, 2006 - 09:37 By Staff Reporter

Global consortium edging closer to £2.5bn acquisition of ABP

Associated British Ports Holdings plc, which owns the East Anglian ports of Ipswich, Lowestoft and King’s Lynn, has opened its books to an international consortium to set up a possible £2.5 billion cash deal.Associated British Ports Holdings plc, which owns the East Anglian ports of Ipswich, Lowestoft and King’s Lynn, has opened its books to an international consortium to set up a possible £2.5 billion cash deal.

A consortium led by Goldman Sachs has been granted limited time to undertake confirmatory due diligence after increasing its takeover offer for ABP by £200 million. The ports operator had rejected a £2.2bn bid from the consortium two months ago as “wholly inadequate” so the bidders may be forced higher still.

The Goldman Sachs consortium includes Borealis Infrastructure Management – an investment vehicle directed by the Singapore government’s GIC Special Investments, which is also involved in the hostile takeover of UK airports group BAA.

The new bid for ABP is worth 810p a share and compares with a first indicative offer by the group of 730p. ABP’s shares were 100.5p ahead (15 per cent) on news of the improved bid.

ABP, which employs 3,000 people, operates 21 ports, owns Amports in the US and handles almost a quarter of the UK’s seaborne trade, has agreed to grant the consortium a limited period to undertake due dilligence.

Associated British Ports Holdings PLC is a leading provider to ship and cargo owners of innovative and high-quality port facilities and services.

The group’s principal subsidiary, Associated British Ports, is the UK’s largest and leading ports group. Its 21 ports handle almost a quarter of the country’s seaborne trade.

The group owns and operates AMPORTS in the US, which handles vehicle imports and exports and provides auto-processing services.

The group’s property investment and property development activities are focused on opportunities within its ports. ABP employs around 3,000 people globally.

ABP’s East of England ports are all doing well. Ipswich Borough Council recently granted ABP’s application for a harbour revision order, incorporating a land-swap agreement that allows ABP to develop 15 acres of disused land bordering the port’s busy Cliff Quay.

In return for the land and the right to develop it, ABP gave the council approximately four acres of non-operational land at the north end of the port’s Wet Dock.

ABP is in discussions with potential customers over the development of the site, which will ultimately include 350m of additional berthing at the port.

The port’s Coldock terminal features over 16,000 sq m of covered and bonded warehousing and has the capability to store a variety of dry-bulk cargoes simultaneously.

The terminal continued to be fully utilised in 2005, with steady growth in agribulk, animal-feed and aggregates tonnages contributing to the considerable 22 per cent increase in dry-bulk volumes handled over the previous year.

Kursiu Linija, the shipping line that operates the container service between Ipswich and the Baltic states, saw a significant rise in the number of containers shipped to the port and has upgraded its fleet.

ABP’s ports at King’s Lynn and Lowestoft also saw increased volumes of cargo last year.

King’s Lynn welcomed its first shipment of unpro-cessed timber. Henrikson Shipping transported a 2,000-tonne cargo of logs from Denmark to King’s Lynn; the logs were for a sawmill in Brackley, Northants.

Omex Shipping started a bi-monthly shipment of agribulks from Stettin, Poland in July and has seen monthly volumes in excess of 4,000 tonnes being handled.

This contributed to the five per cent increase in volumes of dry bulks handled at the port over the previous year.

Aggregates and timber volumes at the Port of Lowestoft increased dramatically during 2005, with two new customers – HLC (Wood Products) Ltd and MBM Forest Products Ltd – utilising the port’s North Quay Cargo Terminal, which features a 30,000 sq m storage area for their timber-handling operations.

ABP’s Lowestoft Haven Marina, has attracted over 300 visiting yachts from as far afield as Australia, the US and mainland Europe.

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