Asciano punts NSW, QLD governments

Port Botany

Port Botany

Asciano chief executive Mark Rowsthorn has lashed out at the New South Wales and Queensland governments, saying that backing another foreign terminal operator to enter major ports with government subsidy would be “bloody rude” to existing operators.     

Mr Rowsthorn said introducing a third operator to Sydney’s Port Botany and Brisbane Fisherman Islands would work against the current operators who struggle to protect themselves.

“I sit here as the only Australian stevedore and say that’s pretty bloody rude, because we do a good job and we’ve got a lot of Australians who work here,” he said.

“I’ll put the national cap on here and say fair’s fair, and any new operator should be subject to the same rentals and any subsidies that are suggested, we just go nuts over.”

The $1 billion Port Botany expansion project began last month, which will double the port’s capacity upon completion.

Asciano, which owns the sole Australian stevedore, Patrick, has reportedly invested over $120 million to upgrade the port’s terminal over the past three years.

Mr Rowsthorn has recently announced Port Botany moved a record of more than one million TEU in the 2007/08 fiscal year.

Amid speculations over a US consortium-led takeover, the company has also announced its 2007/08 full year results, which include an increase in operating revenue of five per cent to $2.9 billion, with earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) increased by 10.1 per cent to $677.7 million.

Assessing its operating business units as performing well overall during the year, with the Patrick ports business and Pacific National achieving strong outcomes, Mr Rowsthorn said the company expects another year of strong performance in the next fiscal year.

The company said that it will initiate a process starting this December to partially monetise one or more of its operating businesses, either by way of a partial sale or a structured transaction.

“We believe all of our business will continue to grow and generate attractive returns for our security holders,” he said.

Third stevedore sought for Port Botany

port botany

International stevedores are expected to line up to win the rights to operate Port Botany’s third terminal.

The NSW Government has called for expressions of interest for port operators to take charge of the third terminal, which will start handling shipments from 2012.

As part of the Government’s $1 billion Port Botany exapnsion project, construction work on the third terminal will commence before the end of this year, with the successful bidder to be announced early next year.

Ports minister Joe Tripodi said: “This is an exciting development for the economy. It will deliver 9,000 new jobs to NSW and boost the state’s economy by $16 billion in the next 20 years.”

He said bids for the right to operate the terminal will entail a fixed and variable rental element as well as a level of investment and intended work volumes.

Among the potential bidders are the Hong Kong-based Hutchinson Ports, the Singapore Port Authority, and Anglo Ports. Local contenders are also expected, including former CEO of Patrick Corp Chris Corrigan. 

While the expression of interest process is open to all stevedores, the key factors are likely to include maintaining a level of competitive tension with the existing operators.

The two existing terminals at Port Botany are being operated by Asciano and the Dubai-based operator DP World.

It is expected the chosen operator will inject around $350 million for new facilities, with initial expenditure on gantries of about $150 million.

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