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DP World has taken full control of the container facilities at Southampton after acquiring the 49% stake owned by Associated British Ports.
There has been speculation for years that one of the two partners would ultimately become sole owner of the facility, which began life as Southampton Container Terminal in a joint-venture between P&O Ports and ABP.
P&O Ports’ stake was transferred to DP World after the Dubai-headquartered company acquired the British terminal operator in a $6.9bn deal in 2006, and the Southampton facility was later renamed DP World Southampton.
However, DP World’s long-term commitment to the terminal has been under scrutiny in recent years. After ploughing huge investment into its new London Gateway development, observers questioned whether it could operate two ports that seemed to be in direct competition, particularly for Asia-Europe services.
Other observers noted that Southampton’s most recent box development, the £100m Berth 5 at the box terminal, which opened last year, was financed by ABP, with the ship-to-shore gantry cranes bearing its distinctive navy blue logo, rather than DP World’s.
Today’s agreement, for an undisclosed amount, was accompanied by a 25-year extension of the terminal lease until 2047.
DP World chairman Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem said: “We are delighted to announce the 25-year extension of the licence agreement for DP World Southampton, which is one of the most efficient terminals in the UK and the only deepsea container terminal on the south coast of England.
“Also, through full ownership of DP World Southampton, we will now be able to combine with DP World London Gateway, the newest deepsea container terminal and logistics park at the heart of the UK’s biggest consumer markets, to offer our customers the best possible service and long term growth in the UK.”
DP World group chief executive Mohammed Sharaf indicated that the company could develop a unified strategy for its two UK container facilities.
“This news underlines our commitment to the UK and our ongoing presence in developed markets as an important part of our global network. I look forward to the synergies that the two ports will bring to our operations and the contribution they make to the UK economy, infrastructure and local employment,” he said.
ABP Chief Executive James Cooper said: “This isn’t just good news for the port of Southampton, this is good news for the entire city. The deal provides a solid foundation for the continued growth and development of the UK’s most productive container port.”