ICTSI eyes Greek ports

by Min Hun Fong, Reuters

Posted at Sep 13 2011 12:11 PM | Updated as of Sep 13 2011 09:42 PM

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Philippines-based International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) will make an offer to buy the two main Greek ports if the government were to make them available for sale, the port operator's chief said on Tuesday.

Enrique Razon, chairman and president of ICTSI, told Reuters in an interview that the company has about $500 million set aside for acquisitions and that the Greek ports, the Piraeus and Thessaloniki, were priorities.

"We are waiting for the two main ports in Greece," Razon told Reuters at an industry conference in the Malaysian capital. "The Greek government is under a lot of pressure to sell these off...hopefully sooner rather than later."

Razon said ICTSI's fundraising exercises over the last two years meant that it could now deploy funds totalling $500 million for acquisitions, which was opportune given the depressed market conditions.

"We've raised a lot of money over the last two years...so we are looking at opportunities and if there's another economic slowdown, which is probably likely at this point, we feel there will be some good opportunities to deploy them," he said.

ICTSI, which has outperformed the Philippines composite index since 2009, has been a favourite with analysts and has embarked on a number of growth-oriented projects recently such as greenfield terminals in Argentina, Mexico and Colombia.

It recently lost out to Japan's Mitsui in a contest for Singapore port operator Portek , which Razon said was attractive because of its exposure to Africa, another region slated for quick growth.

The Greek ports were attractive as well because it would provide another growth catalyst for the company when the Greek economy emerges from its current quagmire.

"If Greece does default, they will go into an almost depression, but when they exit that, it will be from a very low base and will have very good growth rates, almost non-European type growth rates," Razon said.

The Greek government has been under pressure to sell some of the troubled country's national assets in a bid to stay solvent.

Prospects for the container business will remain muted, although this has been true since the start of the year, Razon said.

Recent spikes of investor fears about the sovereign debt crisis and currency issues did not further aggravate business prospects, he added.

The global shipping business tends to mirror macroeconomic trends and analysts have expressed concern that the container business will be badly affected should global consumer demand further deteriorate owing to uncertainty.

Four out of eight analysts tracked by Thomson I/B/E/S have a "buy" call on the stock, and three have "hold" calls. Shares of ICTSI were down 0.2% to P50.9 at 0436 GMT.