P&O confident of takeover

Ports and ferries group P&O today said it was confident its multi-billion pound takeover by Dubai Ports World would go ahead despite growing opposition in the United States.

P&O insisted it had cleared all the correct regulatory channels after a partner in Miami filed a lawsuit to block the £3.9bn (€5.7bn) deal with state-owned DP World.

The legal action by Eller & Company subsidiary Continental Stevedoring & Terminals comes amid a growing political storm in Washington over concerns that the deal could compromise national security.

Senators including Hillary Clinton have called for the deal to be blocked because it would place control of key ports such as Miami, New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans and Philadelphia in the hands of a foreign government.

And Peter King, chairman of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, claimed there were too few safeguards in the deal to combat terrorist infiltration. He added that the terms for approving the transfer of control to the United Arab Emirates were not strict enough.

Eller added to the opposition on Friday night when it filed for $10m (€8.4m) in damages, claiming it was not consulted about the deal and will therefore become an involuntary partner with DP World.

But P&O is understood to be confident that the lawsuit will not affect the deal, which was voted through last week by shareholders who will receive their cash by March 16.

It has also been approved by the Department of Homeland Security.

A P&O spokeswoman said: “Clearly, a change of control was a key focus for the due diligence process and we are confident all issues have been satisfactorily addressed.”

Michael Seymour, president of the North American arm of P&O, said the company was aware of the lawsuit which was filed in a Florida court on Friday but had not had time to review it.

He pointed out that P&O was “itself a foreign-owned terminal operator that has long worked with US government officials in charge of security at the ports to meet all US government standards” and added that other foreign companies also operated ports in the US.

Mr Seymour said: “We are confident that the DP World purchase will ensure that our operations continue to meet all relevant standards in the US through ongoing collaboration between the port operators and American, British, Australian and port security officials throughout the world.”

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