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Comment: US billionaire has eye on big Irish payday

TWO or three years sounds like a short time to own a multi-billion euro business.

Not if you are a "distressed" asset investor from the United States.

A vulture fund's job is to buy good assets cheaply when the world is either too frightened or too broke to compete.

When things recover you sell – returning lots and lots of cash to your investors.

Having been one of Europe's most distressed markets as recently as 18 months ago, Ireland is now bouncing back. The distressed investors are looking to bounce on to the next crisis elsewhere.

Like Bank of Ireland shareholder Wilbur Ross, who last month recouped all of the original cash he had invested in Bank of Ireland back in 2011 in a deal that still leaves him owning shares worth twice as much again.

And now it is the turn of Blackstone's Stephen Schwartzman.

The colourful US billionaire has his eye on a big Irish payday – in his case by selling some or all of Eircom.

Like Wilbur Ross, Blackstone bought into Ireland when it was too hot for most of their rivals.

At the depth of the crash Schwartzman summed up his view on the situation.

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"You want to wait until there's blood in the streets," he said.

Last night Eircom confirmed it's eyeing a possible stock listing – it's already time to move on.

The strange side-effect of the economic recovery here is that we are going to have to watch a parade of investors who came in at the bottom of the crash taking their winnings off the table, as they head off for the next financial calamity.


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