RREEF docks into Peel Ports

The global real estate investment manager has bought a minority stake in the ports business of private UK property group Peel Holdings in the latest example of infrastructure luring property investors.

RREEF, part of Deutsche Bank’s powerful asset management division, has won the race to buy a reported 49 percent stake in Peel Ports, the second largest ports group in Britain and Ireland.

It is understood RREEF beat off interest from rival group Macquarie of Australia, which has been investing heavily in European infrastructure in recent times.

There was also been interest from UK private equity firm 3i, the Canadian Pension Plan and Industry Funds Management, according to a report in The Business newspaper earlier this summer.

RREEF’s stake, which is said to be worth around €1.1 billion ($2.1 billion), gives it exposure to a successful ports business assembled by Manchester-based Peel Holdings, which is led by secretive billionaire founder and chairman, John Whittaker.

Peel Ports operates Mersey and Manchester Ship Canal in the northwest of England, Clydeport in Scotland and ports on the Medway in the southeast, as well as Dublin.

The ports division also owns the €750-million Glasgow Harbour development, although RREEF and Peel said all non-operational land relating to property development has been retained by Peel Holdings.

The two parties have not confirmed the size of the investment or the percentage stake Peel has sold.

However, John McCarthy, head of RREEF’s Infrastructure Fund, said the deal was consistent with the “partnership model that RREEF is looking to apply in the European marketplace.”

Whittaker said: “Peel Ports is a very sound, strategically based business, but with RREEF’s added strength and contribution, we can expand and take it forward to new heights.”

The deal still needs regulatory clearance from the European Commission but it is expected to close at the beginning of December.

Peel Holdings is one of the most successful private property companies in Britain. Its assets include the John Lennon airport in Liverpool; Durham Tees Valley airport in the northeast of England; Robin Hood Airport in Doncaster, Sheffield; and a 50 percent stake in Sheffield City Airport.

In addition, the company owns 9 million square feet of UK property and land and has other investments in Spain, Bermuda and the Bahamas.

The deal comes at a time of great upheaval for British ports groups, whose businesses and underlying assets have proved attractive to oversees buyers.

P&O was bought earlier this year by Dubai Ports World for €5.8 billion, Associated British Ports was bought by a Goldman Sachs led-consortium for €3.5 billion and Australia’s Babcock & Brown took control of PD Ports last year.