Eir chief says flotation is more likely than a sale

Company was grappling with years of declining revenues when it made an abortive attempt to float two years ago

Eir chief executive Richard Moat. Photoggraph: Aidan Crawley

Eir chief executive Richard Moat. Photoggraph: Aidan Crawley

 

Eir’s chief executive Richard Moat said the phone group, valued at €3.5 billion by a share trade earlier this year, is more likely to be floated for a third time than be taken over by an overseas rival.

Speaking in an interview with RTÉ Radio, aired on Saturday, Mr Moat reiterated, however, that it will be at least two years before Eir attempts another initial public offering.

While Eir, formerly known as Eircom, was grappling with years of declining revenues when it made an abortive attempt to float two years ago, it has since delivered six consecutive quarter of sales growth.

This has been helped by a recovering economy, €1.3 billion of investment since 2012, when Eir emerged from a massive debt restructuring, to upgrade the telecom group’s network and expand services to include TV and fourth-generation mobile coverage.

“We’ll have a great story to tell [in two years’ time],” Mr Moat said. “The prospect of somebody coming along and buying us existed when the company was in a more vulnerable position.”

The former Government-owned group incurred €4.1 billion of debt through five changes in control in 13 years before it filed for the State’s biggest examinership case in 2012. This resulted in its most senior lenders seizing control of the company as 1.8 billion of its borrowings were written off.

Following an abortive attempt to float Eir in late 2014, the company received a takeover offer last year, which was rejected. Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC bought 16.3 per cent of Eir from a group of investors, largely hedge funds, in a deal that valued the group at €3.5 billion.

“It’s becoming quite an expensive asset,” Mr Moat said.

Last month, it emerged that Eir’s largest three shareholders, US hedge funds Anchorage, Davidson Kempner and Singapore’s GIC, were preparing to buy an almost 10 per cent stake held by New York investment fund York Capital. This transaction will increase Anchorage’s stake to between 45 per cent and 49 per cent, but tip its voting rights over the 50 per cent mark.