Saturday, February 25, 2006

DPW and P&O - Bush Finally Doing Something Right

First Singapore's PSA International thought they had the deal sealed with its US$6.4 billion bid for P&O (a UK ports & ferries group). Even P&O were happy with the bid. The deal would have made PSA the world's largest ports company. But no, petrodollars effect reared its ugly neck when DP World decided that they MUST have P&O at any cost - literally. How about US$6.9 billion! Thankfully, PSA pulled out of the bidding war, which was already at stratospheric level. The premium being paid for the acquisition is for control, for size and status. Well, we thought the deal was done, but NOOOOO... some American senators have to step in to block the deal. Finally, President Bush did something which I agree with. It is wonderful to see Bush doing something of value in addition to being good fodder for comedians.

Bush surprisingly defended DPW's deal, which would include the operation of seaports in Baltimore and five other cities in the US. Bush threathened to veto if Congress tries to kill a deal his administration has approved. Facing a sharp bipartisan backlash, Bush took the unusual step of summoning reporters to the front of Air Force One to condemn efforts to block a firm from the United Arab Emirates from purchasing the rights to manage ports that include those in New York and New Orleans. The deal has to go through. The fact that so many senators protested the deal shows THE TOTAL LACK OF APPRECIATION OF THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ASIAN NATIONS. Dubai or UAE is a totally different animal from the more volatile Middle Eastern countries. The assumption that everyone who sport the same skin tone will act and behave similarly??!! The fact that the P&O only has slightly more than 10% of its assets in the US was also missed. The fact that the USA SHOULD NOT PREJUDGE a company based on its location or heritage was not considered. The protestations showed how naive some Americans are when it comes to dealing with international politics and business - WE ARE NOT ALL THE SAME. Its like categorising all Europeans as ONE TYPE OF PEOPLE WHO BEHAVE ALIKE!!??

Prejudging, preconceived ideas... that's the hall mark of subtle racism, or in this case, not so subtle. We all understand the paranoia due to 9-11, but knee jerk conclusions are not needed. The main reason why Americans as a country is hated generally by the rest of the world is that they failed to appreciate the nuances, differences, heritage, cultural sensitivities and many other aspects of each country. Policies are rushed through and rammed down everyone's throats. At least Bush is doing something to reverse that.

The cycnics would want you to believe that Bush is supporting the deal with UAE because UAE has bought US$8.4 billion worth of military equipment from the US and France over the past 5 years. While it is true that UAE has in recent times bought a significant 80 F-16 fighter planes from the US, 36 British Aerospace Hawks, 100 ground attack aircrafts, 4 warships from Germany, 2 frigates from Holland, 400 battle tanks from France ... and a partridge in a pear tree... so what. UAE has been and can still be a voice of reason for the rest of the world in the Middle East. This is a country with the world's third largest oil reserves and fifth largest gas reserves. The most important thing is UAE is modern, forward looking, wants to assimilate into the world of business... successfully, and is an important friend and ally for most of the democratic world.

"I want those who are questioning it to step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a British company," Bush told reporters. He concluded that it poses no threat to national security. He praised the United Arab Emirates as a close ally against terrorism and warned of sending the wrong message to the world by condemning a business just because it is Arab-owned. Does any of the protesters know that the United Arab Emirates provides docking rights for more U.S. Navy ships than any other nation in the region. It is pretty important that Bush prevails in this stance - this will send a powerful and positive message to all - to remove the paranoia, read, learn, accept, understand and tolerate.

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