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June 23: A frantic overnight auction has resulted in the Goldman Sachs-led consortium making an agreed £2.8bn bid for Associated British Ports. Goldman has lifted its price from 840p a share in cash to 910p. The Macquarie-led consortium is urging ABP shareholders to do nothing but it must now find an equity partner to replace 3i, which has pulled out of the team. It sounds like the bidding was pretty furious last night and into the early hours of this morning. With ABP shares trading above the offer price, at 915p, the bidding may not be over. Shares in Forth Ports, the last listed ports company and the only one not being bid for at the moment, are also up. You can read about it all in Lex, online now.
Macquarie is also bidding for buses. It has agreed to buy Stagecoach’s London bus operation for £264m. Our transport correspondent, Robert Wright, thinks it would be easier if Macquarie simply bid for the UK and divested the bits it didn’t want. Stagecoach shares are up, partly on hopes of a cash return.
We’re seeing what more we can do on the OFT and US Department of Justice investigations into prices and fuel surcharges at British Airways. Robert Peston on the BBC website reports that the authorities were tipped off by Virgin Atlantic, which, if correct, is extremely interesting. From the stories in today’s papers, it’s not immediately obvious to me what it is that BA is supposed to have done wrong: it would be perfectly normal, and legitimate, for airlines to watch each other’s pricing like hawks and to react to the smallest changes. We need to know more about the basis for the OFT and DoJ’s actions. The BBC suggests a BA executive told Virgin of its plans to raise its fuel surcharge. We’ll ask BA and Virgin, of course. BA, which has put two executives on leave of absence, has said it is its policy to conduct its business “in full compliance will all applicable competition laws”. BA shares are unchanged today.
We are also working on some great stuff ahead of Monday’s publication of the Rosneft IPO prospectus, and another M&A-related feature.
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