Asciano: Competition to heat up at Port of Melbourne

Patrick Stevedores owner Asciano (ASX: AIO) and Dubai-based DP World are about to get some new competition on the docks at the Port of Melbourne. The corporation charged with overseeing the Port recently announced its shortlist of bidders vying to build and operate a third international container terminal with a mandate to provide capacity of at least one million containers per annum.

The bidders left in the race include Qube Holdings (ASX: QUB). Should Qube win the bidding process it will mark a major milestone for Qube’s Chairman Chris Corrigan, who was the also the founder of Patrick Stevedores. The winning bidder is expected to be announced in early 2014 and the new terminal should be in operation by late 2016.

Freight and logistics operator Toll Holdings (ASX: TOL), through its subsidiary Toll Shipping, provides dedicated terminals for Bass Strait trade in the Port of Melbourne. Toll does not operate container terminals though, nor has Toll bid for a new contract at the Port to run an automotive ‘pre-delivery hub’.

Toll’s operations and share price has been under pressure of late. Given smaller competitor K&S Corporation (ASX: KSC) just downgraded full year earnings guidance, it is likely that the market is worried that a downgrade from Toll might be just around the corner and has discounted the stock in anticipation.

Foolish takeaway

Infrastructure assets including sea ports, airports and toll roads can all make excellent investments that provide stable, growing dividends. The proviso, of course, is that they are purchased at a reasonable price and that the assets are not loaded up with too much debt.

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Motley Fool contributor Tim McArthur owns shares in Toll Holdings.


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