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)