Eircom’s recent history of ringing in ownership changes

THE takeover of Eircom by Babcock & Brown is the latest in a series of ownership changes.

The buyout will also be the second time that the workers have joined forces with a bidder to secure their position as major shareholders.

Few companies, especially those of Eircom’s size, have had such diverse owners in their lifespan.

Eircom’s life in the private sector began in the summer of 1999 when the Government decided to sell off all its shares in the largest ever Irish privatisation.

Nearly 500,000 people bought into the then Telecom Eireann, listed on the Dublin, London and New York stock market.

Initially the shares rocketed to value nearly 30% more than they had first traded at, but amid an international stock market downturn and questions about how the company would expand, the value of Eircom shares collapsed.

Eircom sold off its mobile arm Eircell to Vodafone in 2000 before Denis O’Brien launched his audacious swoop.

His bid for the telecom was dashed when a consortium of international private equity firms fronted by Tony O’Reilly emerged.

Mr O’Reilly’s Valentia consortium sealed the takeover by gaining the support of the Eircom employee share ownership trust (ESOT).

The €2.1bn takeover left many small investors sitting on losses of 30% on their initial investment.

In 2004, the Valentia consortium made a handsome profit on their investment when Eircom was relisted on the Dublin and London exchanges.

Since then, Eircom has been busy on the corporate front, buying mobile operator Meteor for €420m and engaging in takeover talks with Swiss national operator Swisscom. A €2.40 a share takeout looked agreed before last Christmas but the Swiss government blocked the deal.

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