The investment bank confirmed yesterday that it was working on a possible bid with Canadian and Singaporean investors, pitched at about 740p a share, that could value the British ports group at £2.2 billion. Shares in ABP surged 3 per cent to close at 717p, but analysts said that new tax rules for property companies in the UK and the possibility of a contested bid could push an offer price closer to 980p or £10 a share — or more than £3 billion.
ABP, the UK’s biggest ports operator, has left open the door to a takeover bid and asked the consortium to put its intentions in writing before talks can begin.
Communications between the two sides’ advisers are expected this week as Goldman Sachs has indicated that it is looking for a recommended offer.
One adviser to the consortium sought to allay fears that the foreign-based investors were looking to strip the UK of key strategic infrastructure assets. “These investors have long-term liabilities and want long-term assets. They want to buy and hold the assets for between 20 and 30 years — this isn’t a typical buy, pillage and refloat private equity bid,” the adviser said.
Analysts hoped other potential buyers could emerge, creating a bidding war of the sort that drove rival port operator P&O’s take-out price to a 70 per cent premium.
“Given its number one market position in the UK, strong cashflows, financial headroom and the potential to exploit significant property holdings, we believe the assets are attractive to third parties,” Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein said