Dover mulls privatisation to fund new terminal

The Port of Dover, Europe’s busiest port, is continuing with plans for a £420m new terminal which could see the publically-owned port go private as it attempts to raise financing.

Funding for the second terminal at Dover Western Docks, formerly the site of the port’s hovercraft, might also be sought through debt.Tim Waggott, director of finance and commercial for the port, said the port was considering “all the structural options”.

This includes outright privatisation - though this is not thought to be the favoured option for a business worth at least £250m even in the current markets.

“The structural options could involve private financing and the form of that private financing is still under consideration,” he told the Financial Times.

But he warned: “One would be mad to tie into a particular funding stream now within the next three to six months with markets as they are when one’s still considering exactly what the planning conditions may or may not be.”
The has already spoken to potential third-party investors, including infrastructure funds, though the port has £43m net cash and could use mainly bank debt to finance the £420m Western Docks project.
Mr Waggott was speaking as the Port of Dover released a resilient set of annual figures. Pre-tax profits for 2008 of £16.6m, down from £20.6m. Revenues rose to £60.8m from £57.7m the previous year.

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Traffic volumes fell 2.3 percent to 14.2m passengers in 2008, partly because of industrial action during the year at SeaFrance. Vehicle numbers were 2.3 percent lower to 2.31m.
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