Bidding war for Meteor under way

5 Jul 2005

A high-profile bidding war between Eircom, Smart Telecom and multimillionaire Denis O’Brien is beginning to unfold this week with bids expected to be filed by 5pm this Friday with Deutsche Bank in New York.

Various reports suggest the final price for Ireland’s third operator could range between €400m and €450m.

According to its most recent figures, Meteor had an 11pc share of the Irish mobile market with some 376,600 subscribers.

Deutsche Bank is handling the sale of Meteor on behalf of parent company Western Wireless, which is itself being acquired for €5bn by Alltel. It is understood bids from the various parties — so far including Eircom, Smart and O’Brien — are expected to be kept live for four weeks at which point an auction process will decide the successful bidder.

It is understood Smart Telecom is being backed to the tune of around €300m by businessmen Martin Naughton, Lochlann Quinn and Brendan Murtagh.

Eircom is understood to be raising up to €200m from its own resources, with a further €250m being raised from existing shareholders through a rights issue being organised by investment banker Morgan Stanley.

The acquisition will have special significance for Eircom, which has made no secret of its wishes to return to the mobile market after selling Eircell to Vodafone in 2000. A moratorium preventing Eircom from entering the mobile market ended last year. It is understood Eircom will be holding its AGM later this month.

By John Kennedy