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Last Updated: Friday, 27 January 2006, 17:27 GMT
Bidding war stokes P&O's shares
P&O ferry

P&O shares surged on the London market after the UK ports and ferries group backed a fresh 3.9bn ($7bn) takeover bid from a Dubai-based operator.

The offer from Dubai Ports World - made after the close of trade in London on Thursday - topped a rival 3.5bn bid from Singapore's PSA International.

Both suitors are keen to take control of P&O's container ports businesses in Asia, Europe and the Americas.

P&O's management had previously backed PSA's 470 pence per share offer.

Shares in the group surged as much as 6% during the session before closing 25 pence, or 4.79%, higher at 547p on the London Stock Exchange.

Bid battle

A victory for state-backed Dubai Ports would create the world's third-biggest ports operator.

The company's revised 520p per share offer on Thursday was the latest twist in the saga for control of Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation since Dubai Ports first tabled an 3.3bn offer in November.

P&O said the improved bid from Dubai Ports represented a 71.3% premium on its closing price on 27 October 2005, when the company first received a takeover approach.

A successful bid by PSA, which is owned by the Singapore government's Temasek investment agency, would create the world's largest ports and containers group.

The agency already owns 4.1% of P&O.

Founded in 1837, P&O has three divisions - ferries, ports and logistics. In its heyday in the mid-1920s, it owned a fleet of almost 500 ships.

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