Peel launches £184m takeover of Clydeport

CLYDEPORT, the west coast ports and property group, is being taken over by a Manchester-based property investment firm for £184 million.

Peel Holdings has offered 440p a share for the Glasgow-based group and shareholders are being urged to back the move by Clydeport chairman James Millar.

Under the advice of Brewin Dolphin and Deloitte & Touche in Glasgow, he said Clydeport directors were "unanimously recommending" Clydeport shareholders accept the offer.

Peel has arranged new debt facilities of up to 156m provided by Royal Bank of Scotland to assist financing.

Mr Millar added: "It represents a significant premium over the current price and, in difficult markets, provides Clydeport shareholders with delivery of certain values as against the risks the delivery of future benefits.

"Both the ports and property activities of Clydeport should be strengthened by the acquisition."

Clydeport is Scotland’s second biggest ports operator with operations at Glasgow, Greenock, Hunterston and Ardrossan. It also has property interests and is working with three housebuilders on a 500m development to build 2500 homes on a 120-acre site in Glasgow. It is roughly half the size of east coast rival Forth Ports, and t here were suggestions today the takeover of Clydeport could see a reduction in its ports operation, in favour of more concentration on its property portfolio - particularly the massive Glasgow Harbour joint venture with BoS - to the benefit of Forth Ports’ operations.

Today’s cash bid values Clydeport at 184.4m and shares in the group soared 20 per cent to 433p in morning trading. Forth Ports is currently valued at 397m.

The offer is a 20.9 per cent premium over the closing price of 364p on Friday, the last dealing day before today’s announcement.

Peel Holdings already owns just under 3.4 million Clydeport shares, or about 8.8 per cent of the company, and has already won approval for the deal from a further tranche of investors.

AIM-listed Peel operates the Trafford Centre in Manchester, Liverpool Airport and, via ownership of the Manchester Ship Canal, the regional port - but it wants to expand the ports business and has been actively seeking suitable deals.

Peel chairman John Whittaker said: "The proposed acquisition presents exciting opportunities for both groups. It should enable Peel Holdings to expand its port operations with the benefit of Clydeport’s management experience.

"Peel Holdings will also be able to provide support and assistance to Clydeport’s property development activities." Shares in Peel were flat today at 702.5p.

In September, Clydeport posted a 25 per cent fall in first-half profits but said it expected to see higher activity in the second half of the year. For the six months to the end of June, it reported pre-tax profits of 6m compared with 8m for the same period last year, on turnover 5.3 per cent lower at 17.7m.

Forth Ports’ profits increased five per cent over the last six months and it has predicted progress with redevelopment plans that should produce a successful full year. It owns and operates commercial ports including Leith and Rosyth, and had profit before tax of 14.5m. Turnover was down to 54.7m from 55.9m.