March 27: Doubts about AB Ports bid

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March 27: Associated British Ports shares are up after a consortium led by Goldman Sachs announced this morning that it was considering a bid for the group, valued at £2bn. However, the stock is up only about 2 per cent at 713p, lower than the 740p that has been rumoured, which suggests many in the market harbour doubts about a bid coming off. The other members of the consortium are Borealis Infrastructure Management, a vehicle of the Ontario pension fund, and GIC Special Investments Corporation, the private equity arm of the Singapore state investment fund. It’s interesting to see Goldman fronting three high-profile bids at the same time: it is also leading the charge on ITV and London & Continental Railways. It’s also worth noting that AB Ports has some US operations which, with the Singapore state involved, could be an issue as it was for DP World and P&O. AB Ports says it has not received a proposal yet. For useful background on port deals and the controversy surrounding some of them go to http://www.oligopolywatch.com/2005/11/30.html or http://www.tpmcafe.com/node/28228

On ITV, we continue to be interested in whether the private equity consortium, which also includes Blackstone and Apax, can come up with a cash alternative. It looks a stretch and it was interesting to see signs over the weekend that ITV might finally be beginning to try to divide the consortium by drawing attention to differences that may exist between them. Emily Bell in the Guardian wrote an interesting piece about whether Greg Dyke is the saviour ITV needs.

Daily Mail & General Trust is chopping away at its Northcliffe regional papers division and is selling the Aberdeen Journals for just over £100m.

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