Owner cancels sale of UK port operator amid legal dispute with PM ally

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A Canadian asset management firm has abandoned the sale of one of the UK’s largest port operators, which was embroiled in a legal battle with a close ally of Boris Johnson.

Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management had put PD Ports up for sale this summer, but said it decided to cancel the auction. The company has 12 ports and distribution sites across the UK, including Teesport in the North East of England.

The South Tees Development Corporation (STDC), headed by the Tees Valley Combined Authority and headed by the authority’s conservative mayor, Ben Houchen, had bid for the port company and recruited a number of backers, including UK pension insurance. Society.

The decision to cancel the sale is a blow to Houchen’s regeneration plans. He wanted to take control of the PD Ports Teesport site, which is part of a plan for a government-backed freeport as part of Johnson’s “leveling” program.

STDC, which owns the land around the adjacent Teesworks site, sued PD Ports in an attempt to prevent it from using two of the three access lanes to Teesport. The port company accused STDC in May of using the lawsuit “to obtain a ransom discount” to allow it to buy the company at a lower price. Houchen and STDC have denied this.

The auction is also said to have sparked interest from Peel Ports, another major UK port operator, controlled by billionaire John Whittaker, and Australian investment bank Macquarie.

Brookfield has owned PD Ports for 12 years. News of the aborted sale was first reported by the Financial Times. A spokesperson for Brookfield said: « PD Ports is a great company that has performed very well under Brookfield ownership and continues to have exceptional long term growth prospects.

“The recent process has strengthened our belief in the business, and we have made the decision to remain invested in PD Ports rather than selling the asset. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the management team as they execute the company’s growth strategy. “


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Brookfield reportedly hoped to secure up to £ 2bn for PD ports, but offers of £ 1.1bn to £ 1.4bn were more likely, after the operator’s deteriorating business performance port.

Teesport is Britain’s fifth largest port in terms of tonnage and is considered the gateway to the north of England. It sits next to the redevelopment site of Teesworks, which was granted low-tax freeport status after Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled new “leveling” plans in the March budget aimed at improving the economic prospects of communities across the UK.

Houchen, who was re-elected mayor of Tees Valley in May, and is a key ally of the Prime Minister, pledged to create thousands of jobs by demolishing the SSI steel mill – which went bankrupt in October 2015 – and transforming the region into a hub of green energy. A successful bid for Teesport would have advanced their plans.

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