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Marketplace: Concern over Control of U.S. Ports

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Marketplace: Concern over Control of U.S. Ports

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Marketplace: Concern over Control of U.S. Ports

Marketplace: Concern over Control of U.S. Ports

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The British port operator P&O says its takeover by an Arab company will go ahead in spite of growing opposition in the U.S. The deal would give the company — Dubai Ports World — control over operations at six major American ports. Several U.S. senators have expressed concern about a potential threat of terrorism.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

The British Port Operations Company, it's called P&O, says it's confident that its takeover by an Arab company will go ahead despite growing opposition in the U.S. The deal would give the takeover company, that's Dubai Ports World, control over operations at a half dozen major American ports, including New York and Miami.

Several U.S. Senators expressed concern about a potential threat of terrorism. Joining us from the Marketplace bureau in London is Steven Beard. Steven, why is P&O so confident this deal is going to go ahead?

STEPHEN BEARD reporting:

Well, Alex, P&O says when the furor dies down, reason will prevail. They argue that the takeover company, Dubai Ports World, or DP World, is a highly respected operator with interests throughout the Middle East and Asia. There's never been any serious question about the security of their operations and no suggestion at all that the company has any terrorist links.

CHADWICK: No, but it's based in the United Arab Emirates, and as some Senators have pointed out, 9/11 hijackers had links there.

BEARD: Yes. But the point that P&O makes, and in fact a leading independent analyst that I've been speaking to says the same, the key factor when it comes to port security is the regulations on the ground and how they're enforced. That's what matters. Here's David Osler(ph), industrial editor of the shipping journal Lloyd's List.

Mr. DAVID OSLER (Lloyd's List): Actual country of ownership is irrelevant, providing security standards are set down, and DP World meets those security standards. I don't think the U.S. has got any particular reason to be concerned.

BEARD: And he points out that DP World wouldn't be running these six ports in the U.S. That's New York, New Jersey, Baltimore and the rest. They'd be running terminals within the ports. So for the most part we're talking about cranes.

CHADWICK: Do analysts think that this takeover deal could nonetheless derailed by security concerns here?

BEARD: Well, they believe that the White House is determined to stand by its approval of the deal, but one analyst that I spoke to today suggested that even if Congress banned DP World from running these facilities, the takeover deal might still go ahead. After all, the U.S. operations represent only around ten percent of the $6.8 billion of the deal. DP World's main interest in taking over P&O is getting a greater presence in Europe and especially in Asia, where of course the major growth can be expected over the next decade or so.

So they might go ahead with the deal, without the American terminals. Anyway, that's the port's controversy. Later today on Marketplace we'll be talking about Nigeria and the rising price of oil.

CHADWICK: Thank you, Stephen Beard of Public Radio's daily business show Marketplace, produced by American Public Media.

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