QUINN Insurance's workers were last night bracing themselves for hefty job losses after a note from their administrators appeared to suggest that Anglo Irish Bank's takeover bid had collapsed.
But sources close to Anglo insisted that the bank was still "actively engaged" in the Quinn process and would submit a formal proposal to its taxpayer shareholder within 10 days.
The Anglo bid, which would see the bank take over the insurer to protect its €2.8bn exposure to Quinn Insurance Limited (QIL) founder Sean Quinn, is seen as the best chance of maintaining QIL's 1,500 jobs.
In an email sent to staff yesterday, the insurer's joint administrator Michael McAteer said there was "no Quinn/Anglo proposal".
Mr McAteer added that the administrators were only engaging with bidders who have "submitted their proposals through the appropriate channels within the stipulated timeframe".
Sources last night suggested that the "no Quinn/Anglo" comment referenced the fact that founder Mr Quinn was not involved with the Anglo bid -- a joint effort between the Irish bank and US insurance giant Liberty Global.
The bank is understood to have submitted a bid by the December deadline, but is still tweaking some parts of its offer.
The bank has not yet secured the up to €600m it needs to finance the deal, because no formal plan has been put to the Department of Finance, its nominal shareholder.
The regulator has expressed previous concerns about an Anglo deal and it is not clear whether all of these have been dealt with at this point.
Sources in Cavan yesterday said employees had widely interpreted the administrators' statement as confirming that Anglo was gone, and lobby group Concerned Irish Business last night issued a statement to that effect.
A spokesman for the administrators refused to clarify whether Mr McAteer had intended to imply that the Anglo bid had collapsed.
Sources close to the bank insisted that they had not been told the bid had failed, and that they continued to actively engage with QIL.
Mr McAteer's email stressed that it was "important to keep this process competitive". Several trade bidders are believed to have fallen out of the process in recent weeks.
The administrator's dispatch hinted at recent industrial unrest at QIL and said that the administrators fear that potential staff actions "could prejudice the process and therefore the future of the business".
Mr McAteer stressed that he appreciated that these were "extremely difficult times for staff" and said the administrators would "continue to work to preserve the maximum number of jobs across the business".