Dubai firm dumps deal

first_img “DP World will transfer fully the U.S. operations … to a United States entity,” H. Edward Bilkey, the company’s top executive, said in the surprise announcement that seemed to spread relief throughout the Capitol and the White House. It was unclear which American business might get the port operations. Just hours earlier, Republican House and Senate leaders privately informed the president that Congress was all but certain to block DP World’s plans. Under pressure from a disapproving public, a House committee overwhelmingly voted against it Wednesday. The leaders told Bush the Senate would do the same – despite his pointed threat to veto any legislation blocking the deal. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, said he opposed turning over the ports to the Dubai company and blamed the White House for “a terrible mishandling of the situation.” “It was a no-win situation,” Schiff said, “both because there are very real security issues that were raised with the deal and because you have an unfortunate situation of further alienating one of our allies.” Schiff added that Congress should now focus on tightening security at the ports by dramatically increasing the number of cargo containers that are inspected. The company’s announcement gives Bush an out. He now doesn’t have to back down from his staunch support of the United Arab Emirates-based company or further divide his party on a terrorism-related issue by following through with his threats to veto any legislation relating to the ports issue. The White House expressed satisfaction with the outcome. “It does provide a way forward and resolve the matter,” said Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary. “We have a strong relationship with the UAE and a good partnership in the global war on terrorism, and I think their decision reflects the importance of our broader relationship.” Rep. David Dreier, R-Glendora, did not say how he would have voted had the legislation to block the deal gone through. But in a prepared statement, he signaled his relief that the deal is off. “This deal did raise serious questions about port security,” Dreier said. “Now that DPW has moved to transfer the U.S. portion of this deal to a U.S. entity, I am committed to a continued focus on enhanced port security.” After weeks of controversy the end came unexpectedly and quickly. Hours after congressional leaders delivered their warning, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, read the company’s announcement on the Senate floor. It said that Sheik Mohammed Al Maktoum, prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, “advised the company … that this action is the appropriate course to take.” It was unclear how the company would manage its planned divestiture, and Bilkey’s statement said its announcement was “based on an understanding that DP World will not suffer economic loss.” Even critics of the deal expressed cautious optimism that DP World’s move would quell the controversy surrounding DP World’s plan to take over terminal leases at six major U.S. ports held by the London-based company it was purchasing. Congress, typically a slow-moving operation, moved at lightning speed to try blocking the deal, underscoring the deep concern over it and the anger about the White House’s unwillingness to listen. “This should make the issue go away,” said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. Added Warner, “To me, that statement put an end to all of this.” The two senior senators backed the Bush administration on the issue and, Republican officials said on condition of anonymity, they had been privately urging the company to give up its quest. “The devil is in the details,” said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada, echoing other lawmakers in Congress. Rep. Peter King, applauded the decision but said he and others would wait to see the details. “It would have to be an American company with no links to DP World, and that would be a tremendous victory and very gratifying,” said the New York Republican, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. White House officials said the decision was the result of conversations between Congress and the company and that senior administration officials were not directly involved in the talks. But Warner said the result was work by “upper levels of both governments.” The company finalized its $6.8 billion purchase Thursday of Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co., the British firm that through a U.S. subsidiary runs important port operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia. It also plays a lesser role in dockside activities at 16 other American ports. The plans were disclosed last month, setting off a political storm in the United States even though the company’s U.S. operations were only a small part of the global transaction. DP World valued its rival’s American operations at less than 10 percent of the nearly $7billion total purchase. Republicans denounced it, furious that they learned of the plan from news reports instead of the administration. They cited concerns over a company run by a foreign government overseeing operations at U.S. ports already vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Democrats also pledged to halt the takeover and clamored for a vote in the Senate. They sought political advantage from the issue by trying to narrow a polling gap with the GOP on issues of national security. After the company’s withdrawal, the Senate indefinitely postponed a vote on a Democratic move to block the deal. Staff Writer Gary Scott contributed to this story. • AP VIDEO: Dubai Ports company to give up management of U.S. ports. For More Info AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WASHINGTON – A Dubai-owned company abruptly abandoned its plans for managing U.S. ports Thursday, defusing an election-year showdown between President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress over an issue that had become a political landmine for the GOP. last_img read more

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