Dispute stalls Tidewater privatisation

25 April 2008
The part-privatisation of Iranian marine services group Tidewater has stalled because of a row between Iran's ports authority, which owns the business, and the state privatisation body.

Iran's Ports & Shipping Organisation (PSO), part of the Road & Transportation Ministry, has been preparing to sell 44 per cent of its subsidiary for up to $150m.
However, the PSO has fallen out with the Iranian Privatisation Organisation over who should receive the proceeds. The ports authority had been expecting to receive the money, which it could then reinvest. However, the privatisation body insists that by law, the funds must pass to the central government coffers.
Seven bidders have expressed interest in Tidewater, including a joint venture of India's Hinduja Group and Dubai's DP World, and another from International Container Terminal Services of the Philippines.
“The bidders were supposed to come to Tehran to submit bids but this was postponed because the privatisation organisation had not received all the documentation from the PSO,” says a Tidewater official. “The PSO has not sent its final letters because it says the income should come back to it.”
In January, Tidewater officials said they expected to raise about $100m from the sale. However, since then the interest of foreign companies has driven up the price to $150m.
“We expect the dispute to be over in a few weeks and the sale will then go ahead,” says the Tidewater official.

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