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Gulf interest sparks P&O speculation

An initial bid for P&O, the fourth-largest ports operator in the world, understood to be from the rival group Dubai Ports World has already raised the share price of the company with many analysts predicting a bidding war.   

P&O is likely to be an attractive proposition for a number of different buyers with the troubled UK ferries business becoming a possible spin-off. P&O Ferries have struggled to compete with rival operators, the Eurotunnel train shuttles and low-fare airlines.

P&O currently generates about 80% of its profits from its ports business having recently sold, demerged or closed a series of operations including the
Earls Court exhibition centre in London.

Dubai Ports World, a company owned by the emirate of Dubai were seeking a meeting with P&O this week with the Sunday Times reporting that Deutsche Bank have been employed to advise on a bid which could be
worth as much as £3bn ($5.35bn). It is thought they could be keen on P&O’s
expanding interests in the booming economies of China and India.

Reports have also suggested that Denmark’s container shipping company AP Moeller Maersk, Temasek Holdings or Hong Kong-based
Hutchison Whampoa Ports will now join the bidding.