Dutch construction firms Hollandsche Beton Groep (HBG) and Ballast Nedam signed a contract to merge their dredging operations. The joint operation, Ballast HAM Dredging, would have sales of 635 million euros ($548 million) and about 2,000 employees. Ballast, a relatively small player in dredging, said it would hold a third of the shares in the new company which
would see it achieving its required industry scale.
HBG's move has angered a substantial number of its shareholders, although it believes it does not require their approval. On Tuesday, HBG shareholders said they would request a court inquiry into the firm's strategy after HBG said the planned deal with Ballast was irreversible.
Builder Heijmans, which is interested in buying HBG's construction arm, said in a brief statement it regretted that HBG and Ballast had signed a contract, adding the company would remain open to further negotiations.
Earlier on Wednesday, both Heijmans and dredger Boskalis
, which is after HBG's dredging arm, said they would await the outcome of the court inquiry which could result in an order to freeze setting up the HBG-Ballast Nedam joint venture. "The outcome of that legal procedure will decide whether we will throw in the towel," Heijmans' chief executive Joop Janssen said. - (Reuters)