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Forth Ports will hear bid as profit is up

Steve Dinneen
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TAKEOVER target Forth Ports is ready to listen to suitor consortium Northstream.

The UK’s biggest listed ports operator will be buoyed after its full-year results showed a swing back into black with pre-tax profits of £36.3m. The firm underwent a series of cost cutting measures that offset a loss of £30.7m the year before.

However, on an underlying basis, pre-tax profit fell 8.5 per cent to £33.2m on revenue 6.4 per cent lower at £173.9m. Traffic through Forth’s ports fell 6.5 per cent to 45.8m tons during the year.

Forth Ports has been playing hardball with the consortium after rejecting a second bid of 1,340p a share, valuing it at £612m.

Chief executive Charles Hammond said the bid, up from 1,285p, is nowhere near the company’s value but yesterday signalled it will meet Northstream representatives.

Hammond said: “We have agreed to meet the consortium in their capacity as shareholders and we have a number of one-to-one meetings this week where we will provide details on the potential the company has to move forward and grow.”

He added: “January and February were ahead of the equivalent period last year and that’s an encouraging start to this year.”

The Northstream consortium, made up of made up of infrastructure investors Arcus, Deutsche Bank’s RREEF and the Peel Group, currently owns 27.4 per cent of Forth’s shares.

Forth Ports owns seven ports in the UK, including Grangemouth, Scotland’s largest container port, Leith in Edinburgh and Tilbury in London.