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Published: 14 June 2008      

PD Ports renews Hull deal

PD Ports has reached an agreement with Associated British Ports (ABP) that extends its concession at Hull Container Terminal (HCT) for another eight years to the end of April 2016.

Over the next 12 months PD Ports will invest around £4M to include new IT systems, refurbishing the cranes and reconfiguring the terminal layout. “The deal enables us to give improved service to Samskip, our most important customer at HCT,” said Jerry Hopkinson, group CEO. “In 2005 we handled around 125,000 units and by April 2008 this had grown to more than 150,000 units.”

Meanwhile, ABP is putting the finishing touches to a project to boost capacity on the port’s rail freight line from 10 to 22 pairs/day. The £14.5M investment is the first scheme to be delivered by Network Rail under the British government’s Transport Innovation Fund (Productivity), with investment also by ABP itself, The Northern Way and Yorkshire Forward. The route is particularly important for coal imports for power stations in the Aire and Trent valleys.

Further north, PD Ports has signalled its intent to enter the deep sea container market with the appointment of Dutchman Frans Calje, formerly a senor project manager with APM Terminals, to head up its £300M Northern Gateway terminal project in Teesport. According to PD Ports, Calje was instrumental in the successful APMT bid for the first concession at Maasvlakte II.

Meanwhile, speculation is growing that PD Ports’ owner, Australia-based Babcock & Brown Infrastructure (BBI), is set to launch an outright bid for Forth Ports plc, having increased its stake from 19.4% to 22.2%. With its existing port assets in the UK, Belgium, Finland, Spain and Italy, BBI is already Europe’s third biggest port operator.

Ironically BBI’s share price has come under pressure in Australia due to “short selling.” This could be down to speculators hoping to stoke investor fears that would lead to further short selling to the point where debt covenants would be triggered, enabling them to buy back the shares at a tidy profit. To try and forestall this, the company said its underlying asset base is sound and that the cash flow position would be enhanced in 3Q/2008 through the completion of the sale of European wind power assets.

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