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Australian bank dials into Eircom
[February 06, 2006]

Australian bank dials into Eircom

(Daily Mail Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)INVESTORS in Eircom, Ireland's biggest phone company, could be ringing up big gains when the shares resume trading this morning.

Eircom is expected to reveal that it has received a call from Australian investment bank Babcock & Brown, which is ready to launch a GBP2bn takeover bid.

Workers could be in line for big windfalls if the deal goes through as the employee share-ownership scheme holds around a fifth of Eircom's shares, worth more than GBP440m.

The Aussies, meanwhile, have a 12.5pc stake that they acquired last November. Swisscom announced in the same month that it was in talks to buy Eircom. These plans were blocked by the Swiss government which is the majority shareholder.

If B&B succeeds, it will land the dominant operator in Ireland, with 78pc of the fixed-line market. It will also be taking on a company weighed down with debts estimated at GBP1.5bn. Neither side was available for comment.

Babcock made a splash on this side of the Irish Sea when it took control of Teesport operator PD Ports for GBP337m last month.

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