P&O shuns London for Oslo ship float

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The Independent Online

P&O, the transport group, is poised to announce the initial public offering of its bulk shipping business on the Oslo Stock Exchange. The move will ready P&O for its autumn demerger,splitting it into a logistics business and cruise operation.

P&O, the transport group, is poised to announce the initial public offering of its bulk shipping business on the Oslo Stock Exchange. The move will ready P&O for its autumn demerger,splitting it into a logistics business and cruise operation.

It was known P&O was looking to spin off Associated Bulk Carriers, but it is understood that progress has been much more rapid than expected by the City. It is looking to complete the IPO before the demerger. The offering could value ABC at up to £200m. P&O has its roots in bulk shipping, with this arm dating back over 100 years.

An analyst said: "P&O is looking to float ABC in Oslo as it is not do-able here. It's Old Economy, and there is not much appetite for shipping investment in London. There may also be tax advantages in Norway." The Oslo market has a record for financing shipping and many global shipping companies have a listing there.

Christiania Bank, a Norwegian investment bank specialising in shipping, is advising P&O on the offering. It is thought a majority share will be offered to the public.

ABC, which lost £20m last year, does not fit the remaining P&O interests. The unit has a fleet of 22 carriers and, at the end of 1999, it had net operating assets of about $510m, with debt, lease and other obligations of about the same.

This year, P&O bought out the Chinese joint venture partner in ABC, Shougang, for a "nominal" sum.

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