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Abu Dhabi Ports in Talks for Africa Deal; Signs China Accord

Abu Dhabi Ports is discussing a possible deal in Africa to take advantage of the continent’s growing trade with Asia, Chief Executive Officer Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi said, as the government-run terminal operator got a $300 million investment from China.

Shipping between Africa and Asia is “booming,” Al Shamisi said in a Bloomberg Television interview from the company’s headquarters in Abu Dhabi. He declined to identify who else is involved in the talks or where the venture might be.

“There are big volumes moving from Africa to the east, so we’re capitalizing in the east-east market which is still booming,” Al Shamisi said. “We see big potential moving forward.”

A possible deal in Africa would expand the company’s footprint on the continent, where it operates a terminal in Guinea, the West African country holding about a quarter of the world’s reserves of bauxite, a raw material used to make aluminum. Emirates Global Aluminium, which is starting an alumina smelter at Abu Dhabi Ports’ Khalifa Industrial Zone, is also building a bauxite mine in Guinea.

Separately, the industrial zone, known as KIZAD, signed an investment agreement with Jiangsu Provincial Overseas Cooperation & Investment Co. to lease 2.2 square kilometers through its United Arab Emirates unit.

The investment will open doors for further negotiations with Chinese companies, said Al Shamisi, who seeks to lease an additional 10-square-kilometer space to them. KIZAD, which spans 52 square kilometers, currently has an occupancy of more than 50 percent, he said.

Abu Dhabi Ports last year signed a $738 million deal with China’s Cosco Shipping Co. to build and operate a second terminal at the Khalifa port. The deal with the unit of China’s biggest shipping group will help reduce freight costs and increase the number of vessels and routes linking Khalifa port to other terminals, Al Shamisi said. Cosco will start with initial capacity of 2.5 million 20-foot containers in 2019 and has an option to increase that to 3.5 million.

Abu Dhabi Ports is considering an initial public offering, joining a growing list of state entities in the U.A.E. seeking to sell shares, according to people familiar with the matter. Al Shamisi said last week “there are no immediate plans to go public.”

When asked if the Saudi-led trade ban on Qatar has affected its business, he said volume in container shipping, general cargo, bulk and cruise passengers is rising year over year at Abu Dhabi Ports.