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Government to name preffered EBS bidders

The Government plans to name Irish Life & Permanent and an investor group led by Cardinal Asset Management as the two preferred bidders for EBS Building Society, the lender rescued in May, two people familiar with the talks said.

An announcement may be made as soon as today, said the people, who declined to be identified before an announcement.

Cardinal, the Dublin-based investment firm led by financiers Nigel McDermott and Nick Corcoran, is bidding with US leveraged buyout firms Carlyle Group and WL Ross & Co.

EBS needs to raise about a total of €785m to meet capital requirements set by the financial regulator.

The Government, which has already injected €350m into EBS, has pledged to provide the remainder needed if it does not secure outside investment.

A spokesman for the Department of Finance declined to comment, as did James Morrissey, a spokesman for Cardinal.

EBS spokesman Gerry O’Sullivan wasn’t immediately available for comment.

WL Ross & Co Chief Executive Officer Wilbur Ross said on September 15 that he was “optimistic” his bid to buy EBS would succeed, and the group may buy more distressed Irish lenders.

Irish Life is looking to merge its banking unit, Permanent TSB, with EBS, according to three people familiar with the matter.

JC Flowers & Co, the firm started by former Goldman Sachs bankers Christopher Flowers, and Doughty Hanson & Co, had also been bidding separately for EBS, two people with knowledge of the talks said on September 8.

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