Miami Company Says UAE Ports Deal Will Hurt Business

Lawyers for a Miami company attempting to block a Dubai firm's takeover of a British port operator said Tuesday their client's business could be hurt if the deal goes through.

Paul Downes, a lawyer for Miami-based cargo-handler Eller & Co., told Britain's High Court that Eller would be affected because some companies have threatened to withdraw business from U.S. ports that would be run by Dubai's DP World if the deal goes through. He said it was not relevant to Eller's case that the worries in the United States over the deal were justified or not.

"The concern was that the United Arab Emirates was a player, was involved, was associated with terrorist funding," Downes told the court. "It doesn't matter whether this is right or wrong, that is the mindset of the individuals that are concerned about this takeover."

The High Court must approve state-owned DP World's 3.9 billion pound ($6.8 billion) takeover of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. for the deal to go ahead. The hearing had been expected to provide a routine rubber stamp, but Eller filed a last-minute appeal Friday.

Downes read from a collection of news reports expressing concern about the deal, which has caused consternation among some U.S. lawmakers, and rejected suggestions that Eller was behind the worries about the deal in the United States.

"It isn't simply one person shouting very loudly. It is independent concerns being raised by ports that have nothing to do with my client and by responsible lawmakers," Downes said.

DP World offered this weekend to submit to a second, broader investigation of its plans to run shipping terminals in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia after opposition to the deal grew in the United States.

Martin Moore, a lawyer for P&O, said he would strongly object if Eller raised substantial concerns about links to terrorism. Moore said the British court hearing was "being used for collateral purposes" to encourage opposition to the deal in the United States.

The state-owned port operator in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, won the support of the P&O board after a bidding war for the 165-year-old company.

Eller, which provides stevedoring services to 90 percent of cruise ships at the port of Miami, is also arguing that the deal breaches its joint venture contract with P&O. Eller has filed a similar lawsuit in the United States.