27 Feb 2009

Port merger proposal not going ahead

7:52 am on 27 February 2009

A renewed merger proposal involving Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga has come to nothing.

Ports of Auckland chairman Garry Judd says Tauranga has declined to advance preliminary discussions about merging the companies' container businesses.

The two groups unsuccessfully sought to merge in 2006.

Auckland then sought to buy the container ternminal at Tauranga, but replaced that with a merger plan.

Mr Judd says that proposal had the backing of Ports of Auckland's owner, the regional council and Tauranga's decision to withdraw is disappointing as there were obvious synergies and cost savings.

Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns says the board believes the offer would not have been in the best interest of shareholders, customers or New Zealand as a whole.

Mr Cairns says Tauranga's container terminal has outstanding growth potential with low associated capital requirements.

It is an integrated part of the total operation, he says, and cannot easily be split off as a discrete operation.

Daniel Silva, from the Importers' Institute, welcomes the failure of the merger proposal saying exporters and importers benefit from the competition created by independent ports.

He says figures from Statistics New Zealand showing imports fell last month for the first time since August 2007 are not enough to convince him that rationalising operations is a good idea.