The UK’s biggest ports operator was today reported to have drawn an improved takeover approach worth £2.34bn (€3.5bn) from a consortium led by Goldman Sachs.
AB Ports rejected a proposed offer from the group last month, but the Daily Telegraph said Goldman had since taken its interest to at least 775p a share.
That is still below the £8 (€11.57) a share that analysts have said is required to take the owner of 21 UK ports, including Hull, Grimsby, Port Talbot and Southampton.
Goldman, which previously offered 730p a share for AB Ports, is working with Canadian counterpart Borealis and Singapore’s GIC Special Investments.
The US investment bank has also made an approach for airports operator BAA, although this was rejected by the company's board at the end of last month.
Today’s report said the directors of AB Ports – led by chief executive Bo Lerenius – were also likely to reject the latest proposal.
And Goldman is unlikely to table a hostile offer for AB Ports as boss Hank Paulson recently indicated his wish for deals to be struck on a friendly basis.
AB Ports impressed the City recently with a better-than-expected 2% rise in annual operating profits to £132.3m (€191m). It has underpinned its prospects by looking to secure more long-contracts, including through development work on the Humber.
It is thought AB Ports might value itself above what the consortium is willing to pay, particularly after Chancellor Gordon Brown used his Budget to pave the way for firms with substantial property interests to set up tax-efficient Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs).
The company employs more than 3,000 people worldwide and also has a number of businesses offering specialist services, while US-based division AMPORTS provides port-located vehicle-processing services.