Dubai Firm Outlines Port Sales Plan

A security guard speaks to a truck driver entering Seagirt Marine Terminal Wednesday, March 8, 2006, in Baltimore. Seagirt Marine Terminal and Dundalk Marine Terminal, which sits adjacent to it, are among those that Dubai Ports World would operate if its U.S. Ports deal goes through.
A Dubai-owned company said Wednesday it plans to sell all its U.S. port operations within four to six months to an unrelated American buyer and laid out new details about how it plans to pursue the sale under pressure from Congress.

DP World said that until the sale is finalized, its U.S. businesses will be operated independently. The announcement was the first time DP World described its plans for the U.S. operations as a "sale" and indicated it would retain no stake in them.

"An expedited sale process is under way, and with the cooperation of the port authorities and joint venture partners, it is expected that a sale can be agreed within four to six months," the company said in a statement.

DP World said it will provide information about its business to "interested parties," which it did not identify, and said it will assess offers based on what it described as "value, deliverability and the continuity of management, employees and customers."

The new disclosures by DP World responded to questions raised since its announcement last week about how it intends to transfer to an unspecified American company all the U.S. operations it acquired when it bought London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. for $6.8 billion.

The British company handles significant operations at ports in Newark N.J., New York, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia — plus lesser dockside activities at 16 other U.S. ports.

DP World has said those U.S. operations are worth roughly $700 million.

"This is the first time we have gotten clarification that the intent is for full divestiture," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. "While I still have to look at the details, it looks now like they have fleshed this out in far greater detail," said Schumer, who said he was assured "the process be open and fair and quick."

"That is very good news. That's what we have been seeking from the beginning," he said.

At the White House, moments before DP World's announcement, spokesman Scott McClellan said company executives had earlier promised to transfer their U.S. businesses, "and it's important that they fulfill the commitment that was made."

"They have expressed that they are fully committed to doing so, and the Treasury Department said that they would work with them on implementing that decision," McClellan said.

DP World said until the sale is complete, its U.S. operations will be managed independently by P&O Ports North America Inc., the wholly owned U.S. subsidiary of the British company it bought.

Meanwhile, the political fallout from the port deal continued as Republicans blocked a Democratic effort Wednesday to force House votes on expanding government scrutiny of foreign investments.

In a 224-192 procedural vote, the Republican-controlled House thwarted Democrats from offering two amendments to a $91 billion measure for wars and hurricane recovery. Democrats also planned to push for more port security money while criticizing Republicans on the issue.