CMA-CGM: Bid for P&O U.S. ports faces threat
Article published in the British newspaper “Sunday Express” of November 19th 2006
By Lawrie Holmes and Tracey Boles
Bid for P&O U.S. ports faces threat
An attempt by French shipping giant CMA-CGM to acquire P&O’s US ports for $700 million (£367 million) may be scuttled by revelations that Egyptian authorities have issued a warrant for the arrest of its chairman.
Reports suggested CMA-CGM, the world’s third-largest container shipping company, was looking to form a consortium with US investment bank Morgan Stanley to acquire the American business. American private equity firm Carlyle Group and terminal company SSA Marine have also launched a bid.
But CMA-CGM’s chances of acquiring the ports will be undermined by the revelation that, in connection with corruption of port officials in Egypt, the country’s general prosecutor has issued a warrant for the arrest of its chairman, Jacques Saadé, and his brother-in-law, Farid Toufic Salem, if they set foot on Egyptian soil. Recently, Ali Massad Saad, chairman of Egypt’s Damietta cargo terminal, was arrested. For a number of years he had been paid up to $10,000 (£5,400) a month by CMA-CGM which then tried to pay the terminal £1.7 million in compensation.
An order to Egyptian border police states that Saadé and Salem are ultimately responsible for the offences. “The men are to be stopped from traveling and intercepted at their arrival point in Egypt” says the order. However, CMA-CGM said Saadé had entered Egypt to meet government officials since the warrant had been issued. “The warrant has been cancelled. The magistrate said it had no substance,” said a spokesman for the company.
The US Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and Department of Justice are understood to be taking a close interest in the case.
With 20 offices in the UK and 279 ships globally, CMA-CGM has revenues of €6 billion (£4 billion) a year.
According to sources close to the deal, DP World is preparing to make its London debut next spring. The floatation, which would see P&O return to the stock market just a year after it was sold, would value the Dubai Company at up to £6 billion. It is understood DP World had originally wanted the floatation to take place by the end of this year but put it back by six to 12 months while taking time to adjust to Western style corporate governance.
It is the first time the spring timetable has emerged.
The sources also said DP World wanted to divest itself of its US ports division ahead of the floatation.
The listing will offer investors a stake in the world’s biggest freight hubs and is likely to include P&O’s ports – among them Tilbury Essex and Antwerp in Belgium as well as Jebel Ali, the largest dock facility in Dubai.