Babcock sits and waits on Forth

BABCOCK & Brown, the Australian bank that has snapped up a 20.4 per cent holding in Edinburgh-based Forth Ports, is believed to have decided it is under no pressure to "put up or shut up" over any takeover intentions.

This followed a weekend report, now believed to be inaccurate, that Babcock & Brown's European Infrastructure Fund had taken its stake to about 23 per cent via further buying on Friday.

A full takeover bid is triggered when a stake goes to 30 per cent. City analysts following Forth Ports also believe the City's Takeover Panel is unlikely to enforce a clarification statement from Babcock.

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One said yesterday: "There is no real reason for put up or shut up because stakebuilding is allowed.

"There has been no offer approach so why would the Takeover Panel get twitchy?

"I suppose the one caveat to this is whether the panel judges a false market is being created in the company by the ongoing speculation."

A spokesman for Forth Ports, whose ports include Leith, Dundee and Grangemouth, said: "Babcock's investment clearly shows that they see value in Forth Ports and understand it is a very attractive investment in terms of ports and property. It is not for us to speculate further."

A Babcock spokesman reiterated what it said when it bought its stake in Forth Ports on 14 January that "we believe it is an excellent business with strong management". He declined further comment.

Babcock is already believed to be sitting on a tidy profit on its investment. It bought in at 2,020p, and Forth Ports' shares closed on Friday up another 3 per cent at 2,212p.