Macquarie pulls out of AB Ports bidding war


A consortium led by Australian bank Macquarie has pulled out of the bidding war for Associated British Ports (AB Ports).

The Britannia Ports consortium, which also includes the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board and Australia's Industry Funds Management, said earlier this month that it would be prepared to pay at least £2.6 billion for the UK ports operator.

But last week AB Ports agreed to a takeover offer by investment bank Goldman Sachs, whose Admiral Acquisitions consortium increased its bid to £2.8 billion in order to secure the company.

"Since announcing its interest in AB Ports on June 14th, Britannia Ports had full access to due diligence information in relation to the company and would like to thank the AB Ports management team for its cooperation and construction approach," the Macquarie consortium said in a statement.

Speculation had been mounting that the Macquarie group would pull out of the race to acquire AB Ports, which owns 21 ports across the UK, after the venture capital firm 3i Group left the consortium last week.

News of Macquarie's climb down will be welcomed by Goldman Sachs, which was forced to withdraw from a bidding war over airports operator BAA earlier this month.

The world's largest securities firm will now be keen to finalise the AB Ports deal, under which it has offered to pay 910 pence per share for the company, after upping its previous bid from 840 pence a share.

Ports have become increasingly attractive takeover targets in recent times, with their stable income streams and property assets particularly appealing given the growth in world trade. In March, Dubai's DP World bought P&O for $6.8 billion (£3.7 billion) after beating competition from Singapore's PSA International.

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