THE UK’s biggest listed ports operator today said it would meet with a bidding consortium after rejecting two takeover approaches.
Edinburgh-based Forth Ports has agreed to meet with its suitors, "in their capacity as shareholders" following news earlier this month of a £612 million takeover approach by a group of major shareholders.
It also reported full-year figures showing a return to the black in 2009, with pre-tax profits of £36.3 million against losses of £30.7 million in 2008.
On an underlying basis, profits dropped from £36.3 million to £33.2 million.
Forth Ports owns seven UK ports, including Tilbury in London, Scotland’s largest container port at Grangemouth and Leith in Edinburgh.
The group has seen shares leap ahead after revealing takeover interest two weeks ago.
It rejected an improved 1340p a share proposal from a consortium which currently owns 27.4% of Forth’s shares, following an initial approach in January.
The group said: "The board considered both of these proposals carefully and, having discussed them with its financial advisers, Commerzbank London Branch, and its corporate broking advisers, Investec Bank, the board is of the unanimous view that these proposals fall far short of the value of Forth Ports.
"We have agreed to meet the consortium in their capacity as shareholders."
The consortium is led by Arcus European Infrastructure Fund, an investment firm formed by the management buyout of part of Babcock & Brown’s European infrastructure business in July last year. Arcus holds 23.5% of Forth.
Other members are Peel Ports - a 3.5% shareholder in Forth with interests including the Manchester Ship Canal and Mersey Docks - as well as RREEF, which is the infrastructure fund of Deutsche Bank.