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Your money: Gone to port! P&O SELLS OUT TO ARAB SHIPS GIANT.


BOSSES of ports and ferries giant P&O are backing a pounds 3.3billion foreign takeover.

The deal with Dubai Ports World signals the end of 168 years of British maritime history.

But it will create a new superpower of the seas - the world's third biggest ports operator.

Bosses also promised the takeover would mean MORE jobs rather than cuts in the 5,000 UK workforce. "We don't anticipate job losses," said DP World chairman Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem.

"On the contrary, there will be more hiring as there is a lot of growth in the business."

The deal, expected to be completed next spring, is good news for investors.

The offer from Dubai is worth 443p per share - 46 per cent higher than where P&O shares were trading before the bid.

And that means a windfall of more than pounds 10million for former P&O chairman Lord Sterling.

The 70-year-old - seen as the architect of the modern P&O - retired with an pounds 11million pension six months ago.

The deal values his shares at nearly pounds 8m and he will pick up another pounds 2.5m from his share options.

Chief executive Robert Woods, who will continue to run the London end of the business, will pick up pounds 3 million.

P&O runs 27 ports in 18 countries and employs 20,000 workers, around 5,000 in the UK. The ferries business has been haemorrhaging cash due to fierce competition from the low-cost airlines and Eurostar.

It recently axed 1,500 jobs and cut the number of ships it runs from 31 to 23.

The business, which lost pounds 15m last year, is now more focused on freight but still expects to carry around nine million foot passengers a year.

The deal is also good news for P&O pensioners. DP World has pledged to plug the pounds 200m black hole in the firm's fund.

It will stump up pounds 125m once the deal is complete and meet the rest over the next five years.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 30, 2005
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