JERUSALEM, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Four investment groups are
looking to acquire the Israeli port of Haifa estimated to be
valued as high as $600 million with formal bids expected towards
October, sources with knowledge of the matter said.
Israel is selling its state-owned ports and building new
private docks in an effort to encourage competition and bring
down costs. At the same time, warming ties with neighbouring
Arab countries are creating new trade opportunities and Haifa is
well placed to become a regional hub.
A new container terminal run by China's Shanghai
International Port Group (SIPG) is opening this year
just up the coast and Haifa port will have to be upgraded to
Final offers are expected around October, an official with
the Government Companies Authority (GCA), which is handling the
sale, told Reuters. A winner should be chosen before the end of
the year with ownership transferred at the beginning of 2022.
Contenders come from Israel, Europe, India and the United
Arab Emirates, which only last year normalised ties with Israel.
The GCA official said the sale was "an orderly,
international process", adding: "geopolitics is not a factor".
To attract investors who may have concerns about competing
with the Chinese-run terminal across the bay, Israel is selling
Haifa port with a war chest of about 1.9 billion shekels ($590
million), lots of land to develop and growing consumer demand
for goods, the GCA official said.
"We plan to make Haifa the gateway to the Middle East," said
Shlomi Fogel, co-owner of Israel Shipyards Industries,
which is jointly bidding with Dubais DP World for
the port. "We have all the ingredients to make it happen."
Britain's DAO Shipping has teamed up with Israeli
infrastructure fund Generation Capital and
London-headquartered shipping company Lomar is finalising its
participation in the consortium, DAO and Lomars parent group
"We want the port of Haifa to become a major port for
general cargo, cars, roro and cruise
(liners)," DAO Shipping's CEO Danny Ungar told Reuters.
Libra's CEO George Logothetis said the project had "the
potential to turn the port into a multi-cargo strategic hub that
will massively benefit Israel and the wider region".
Indias Adani Ports is separately partnering with
Israel's Gadot Group, and a fourth suitor includes Israel's
Shafir Engineering, industry sources said.
Shafir and Gadot declined to comment, while officials at
Adani did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Additional reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan in Chennai
Editing by Robert Birsel)