Wednesday 21 March 2018

Hopes of quick decision on EBS's future dashed

Laura Noonan

HOPES of an imminent decision on EBS's ownership were dashed this week when the building society said it would work through the deal "over the next number of months".

Bidder Irish Life & Permanent had said it expected clarity on its offer "by the end of September", triggering speculation the process was in its final stages.

This week, however, EBS chief executive Fergus Murphy suggested that it could be the end of the year before the society's ownership was resolved.

"The period to the end of the year is crucial; we expect to have clarity on our future ownership, we expect to complete the transfer of assets to Nama and we expect a decision on our restructuring," Mr Murphy said, announcing EBS's half-year results.

He later said that EBS would "continue to work through the [sale] process between now and the next number of months".

Some sources close to the process expressed "frustration" at the apparent slow-down in the sale, which has attracted bids for three private equity players as well as Irish Life & Permanent.

A spokesman for Irish Life & Permanent had no comment.

A spokesman for the National Asset Management Agency (Ntma), which is handling the sale, also declined to comment.

Sources stressed, however, that there was no question of the Ntma not having adequate resources to handle the EBS sale in tandem with other pressing demands like bond auctions and Anglo Irish Bank.

Despite pouring cold water on the prospect of an imminent deal, Mr Murphy said the sales process was "quite mature".

Irish Independent

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