Forth rules out bid for Port of Dover

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The Independent Online
Forth Ports, the fast-growing privatised ports operator, has put expansion plans on hold while it integrates recent acquisitions of operations at Tilbury and Dundee.

Although Forth said it would keep a watch on the sell-off of Tyne port, the company has ruled out a bid for the Port of Dover and said its priority this year was to invest in existing operations.

Forth yesterday unveiled annual pre-tax profits up from pounds 13.9m to pounds 15.3m, results that were ahead of City expectations. The acquisition of Tilbury for pounds 121m in October, combined with the pounds 8.5m acquisition of Port of Dundee in November, helped lift total group tonnage at Forth to 48.7 million tonnes from 44.4 million in 1994.

Alistair Fleming, who took over as chief executive last month, said the planned development of Tilbury would mean an increase in the throughput in its core port operations this year. "We see a lot of upside at Tilbury. I expect to see the momentum of volume growth continue," Mr Fleming said.

The current year would be one of consolidation, he said.

The Port of Tyne is said to be the best of the next group of port operations to be privatised, but Forth appears unlikely to be among the bidders. "We would simply look at Tyne, because we would look at any port coming to the market," the company said.

Investing in facilities to win new business was the priority. The transfer of the container businesses of Geest and Bell to Tilbury from 1 May would see a "very substantial" increase in container volume at the port this year.

Forth is part of a consortium, with Scottish Power, Babcock, and Royal Bank of Scotland, bidding for the port at Rosyth, the former Royal Navy base.

Negotiations were going well, the company said. "Most issues are now resolved and we expect the process to be concluded some time in the third- quarter of the year."