BT agrees sale of Irish unit to Mayfair Equity

Telecoms giant said to have agreed deal which values Irish business at €300m

BT Ireland is understood to have been briefing staff and clients about the transaction. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

BT Ireland is understood to have been briefing staff and clients about the transaction. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

 

UK telecoms giant BT has reportedly agreed the sale of its Irish business to London-based investment company Mayfair Equity Partners.

The deal is said to value the business here, which includes the State’s second largest fixed-line network, at just under €300 million. BT and Mayfair have been been in exclusive talks for several weeks.

BT Ireland is understood to have been briefing staff and clients about the transaction. A spokeswoman for the company, however, denied a deal had been reached and refused to comment on what she described as “speculation”. A spokesman for Mayfair also declined to comment.

BT Ireland has operated in the Republic for over two decades, providing communications and IT services to large businesses and the public sector, as well as wholesaling services to other communications companies.

It has the second-largest fixed-line business behind market incumbent Eir. It also has a sizeable fibre-optic network running alongside the State’s rail network. Its high-profile customers here include Bank of Ireland, Vodafone, Sky and Three.

Controlling stake

BT Ireland currently employs about 650 staff in the Republic, primarily in Dublin, and generated a pretax profit of €34 million on sales of €425 million last year.

The company also operates the State’s 999 emergency call services, a contract said to be worth €50 million over five years.

BT entered the Irish market in 2000 via the acquisition of a controlling stake in Denis O’Brien’s Esat. The company’s mobile arm was later rebranded as O2 and is now part of Three. BT also sold on the fixed-line business to Vodafone to focus on corporate customers.

BT has been restructuring its global operations in the wake of an accounting scandal at its Italian unit and in the face of greater competition in its core markets.

In May it announced plans to cut 4,000 jobs and replace the boss of its global services business .

The UK telecoms group has built up a mountain of debt – over £12 billion (€13.9 billion) – buying up assets over the past 20 years.