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Bidding war begins over ABP sale

A bidding war appears to have broken out over the acquisition of British ports company Associated British Ports (ABP), with US investment bank Goldman Sachs and Australia's Macquarie Bank battling it out to secure the deal.

Earlier, ABP was reported to have accepted an offer of just under £2.5 billion from a consortium led by Goldman Sachs, the equivalent of 810 pence per share.

However, Macquarie sought to upset the deal, announcing they would consider launching a counter bid together with the European buyout firm 3i Group and a consortium of other investors, although they failed to quote a price.

This in turn provoked a swift response from the Goldman Sachs consortium – known as Admiral – with an increased bid of £2.58 billion now on the table, adding around £90 million to the estimated value of the company.

The move underlines Admiral's determination to secure a foothold in the lucrative ports industry, after failing in its attempts to secure the UK's Heathrow and Gatwick airports from BAA.

However, analysts expect Macquarie to also fight hard for a deal, with increased global trade promising strong profits for port operators around the world.