Three Ireland to make revised offer for Eircom after €2bn bid rejected

Billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Hutchison Whampoa Ltd made a bid of about €2bn for Eircom Group, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The cash offer by Hutchison’s Three Ireland unit was rejected by the court-appointed examiner because there were too many conditions attached, said two of the people, who declined to be identified because the discussions are private. Three Ireland is working on a revised bid, they said.

Eircom filed for examinership on Mar 30 with €3.8bn of net debt, the biggest corporate insolvency in Irish history.

Hutchison is stepping up its investments in Europe, where the Hong Kong company agreed to buy wireless carrier Orange Austria this year, and acquired Britain’s Northumbrian Water Group Plc in 2011.

Goldman Sachs Group is advising Hutchison, two people said. Morgan Stanley is Eircom’s adviser.

Laura Cheung, a spokeswoman for Hutchison in Hong Kong, declined to comment, as did representatives for Eircom and its senior lenders, Three Ireland and Goldman Sachs.

Eircom’s examiner had last month set an Apr 23 deadline for indicative investment proposals, with a May 7 deadline for final proposals.

Eircom, Ireland’s biggest fixed-line operator, said on Apr 30 that the examiner, Michael McAteer of Grant Thornton, rejected a conditional non-binding offer for the company. It didn’t name the bidder.

“No new offer has been received by the examiner,” Mr McAteer said yesterday.

Eircom Ltd, Eircom’s main trading company, reported a 4% decline in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation for the financial year 2010-11 to €647m. Sales fell 8% to €1.69bn.

Hutchison’s 3 Group, which owns phone businesses in Ireland, Italy, Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Austria and Australia, has made cumulative investments of HK$240bn (€23.6bn), according to an estimate by Morgan Stanley in 2010.


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