JC Flowers has teamed up with Apollo Global Management, another private equity firm, to make a joint bid, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.
London-based CVC Capital Partners and Great-West Lifeco’s Canada Life Ireland and US insurers Unum and Delphi are the other bidders.
They are all being given more detailed financial information about Irish Life before being asked to submit final offers in October.
The Government is forcing the break-up of Irish Life to recoup some of the cost of bailing out the lender’s unprofitable banking unit.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan said in June that he favours an outright sale over an initial public offering to help raise the €4 billion of additional capital Irish Life’s banking unit needs. The sale of the life unit, together with a junior bond buyback, may raise a combined €1.1bn.
Deutsche Bank, which is advising Irish Life on the disposal, sent a 142-page information memorandum in July on the company to about 20 prospective buyers.
Spokespersons for Irish Life, Deutsche Bank and the Department of Finance declined to comment on the sale process, as did all the prospective buyers.
JC Flowers bid for EBS, the country’s fifth-largest lender, last year before the Government merged the company with AIB.
JC founder J Christopher Flowers said in December that “if we can find the right opportunity to invest in Ireland, we would like to do that”.
Irish companies are attracting other overseas investors. Bank of Ireland, the country’s largest bank, said in July that Fairfax Financial Holdings, WL Ross & Co, and Fidelity Investments are among five institutions buying a combined 35% stake in the lender from the Government.