P&O Ports' parent OKs $5.7 billion sale

BUSINESS DIGEST

Business Digest

November 30, 2005|By MEREDITH COHN | MEREDITH COHN,SUN REPORTER

The British parent company of P&O Ports, the terminal operator and stevedoring firm that handles much of the cargo at the port of Baltimore, agreed yesterday to be sold to the government-owned Dubai Ports World.

No job cuts or other major changes are expected at the company, which operates at about 100 ports in 18 countries, after the sale of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. The sale price is 3.3 billion pounds, or $5.7 billion, in cash. Per share, that's 443 pence, or $7.60. The company will continue to be run out of its London headquarters as a separate business by its current chief executive, Robert Woods.

"We expect everything to stay the same," said Stephen Edwards, chief operating officers of P&O Ports North America in Iselin, N.J. "We don't expect any changes to the Baltimore operation."

P&O Ports employs about 65 in Baltimore and is responsible for many of the unionized longshoreman hours. It predominantly handles containerized cargo for the state-owned port at Seagirt and Dundalk marine terminals.

F. Brooks Royster III, director of the Maryland Port Administration, which oversees the public marine terminals, said the company has been under contract at the port for about six years and has another year to go. It has two seven-year options after that.

"We certainly hope nothing changes as far as local management," Royster said. "It's our desire that the new ownership be transparent to us." P&O shares gained 1 percent to close at 439.5 pence, or $7.54, a share in London trading.

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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