Call for swift end to Forth Ports takeover bid talks

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CITY leaders today called for a speedy resolution to the latest takeover talks surrounding the company behind the biggest expansion of Edinburgh in hundreds of years.

Forth Ports, which is planning a 30-year regeneration of Leith Docks that will see the creation of nine new "urban villages", has confirmed that its biggest shareholder has relaunched a bid to take it over.

Arcus, an infrastructure arm developed from Australian investment giant Babcock & Brown, failed with a bid last year because the board of the Edinburgh-based firm said its offer was too low. The company has now put a new offer on the table - and Forth Ports has agreed to allow it to carry out a check of its books.

Concerns have emerged that the uncertainty over the future owner of the company could stall the development of the Leith Docks area.

Councillor Tom Buchanan, the city's economic development leader, said: "This is clearly a commercial matter for Forth Ports, but we would hope that, if a takeover is agreed between the companies, that any new owner would work with us to ensure that the development plans for the Leith Docks area will continue. "If the company was on a sound financial footing, we would hope that the development could even be speeded up.

"The best thing for all parties, including the council, is that this comes to as speedy a conclusion as is possible."

The takeover speculation could also delay plans to bring a giant observational wheel to Leith Docks. Great City Attractions (GCA) had hoped to submit a joint planning application with Forth Ports in December but no plans have yet been submitted to the city council.

The council had been working with both companies on the plans but it is now understood that it is down to GCA and Forth Ports to reach an agreement to take formal plans forward. Nobody at GCA was available to comment on the proposals today.

Forth Ports is the only listed port operator in the UK but its 400 acres of development land at Leith is seen as one of its most prestigious assets.

Plans include 16,000 homes and a massive development of retail, commercial and industrial units across the site.

The latest proposal by Arcus values Forth Ports at around 745m, compared to 640m last year.

A spokeswoman for Forth Ports was unable to comment on the impact of any potential takeover. In a formal statement, the company said: "On the basis of this indicative proposal, the board has agreed that Arcus can undertake certain confirmatory due diligence."

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