The Board believes that the change would ensure that the necessary capital was secured for investment in the port to deliver new capacity as and when required, guaranteeing the port’s ability to meet the needs of its customers over the long term. The port would also be free to pursue other commercial opportunities to grow the business, both in Dover and elsewhere.
Roger Mountford, Chairman of Dover Harbour Board believes that in order to maintain momentum, “The port needs access to private capital to benefit from new opportunities.”
Currently the port comprises a hybrid structure in which it pays no dividends and reinvests all its earnings; it is in the public sector but is not owned by the Government – although the UK Treasury will benefit most from the proceeds of privatisation
The Board recent applied for permission to construct a new ferry terminal in the western docks, an investment likely to total some £400m (US$648m) but were unable to go ahead because of public sector borrowing restraints. Being privatised would give the port access to private capital markets and the funding needed to build the new terminal.
As Europe’s busiest ferry port which missed out on privatisation in the 1991 Ports Act because of the uncertainty of the effects of the Channel Tunnel then under construction, it is anticipated that the sale of Dover would arouse significant interest among global bidders with a sums of between £300m and £400m already being mentioned.