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IL&P woos up to 20 potential bidders for its insurance arm Irish Life

IRISH Life & Permanent (IL&P) has begun contacting up to 20 potential bidders for Irish Life Assurance (ILA) with a view to issuing an "information memorandum" on the sale later this week.

The potential bidders, believed to include Zurich, Allianz, Met Life and private equity players, are all being asked to ink strict non-disclosure agreements to secure their copy of the documents.

Sources last night confirmed that bidders who sign on the dotted line will be asked to present "expressions of interest" by early August so a shortlist can be drawn up for final bids by early September.

The timeline could see the State repaid about €1bn of its €3.8bn support for the bancassurer by early autumn -- just months after the money is due to be injected at the end of July.

Several of ILA's potential bidders yesterday declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of such deals. Irish Life executives involved in the deal have already signed non-disclosure agreements that forbid them from discussing the deal.

Rapidly growing Zurich is seen as a prospective bidder given its demonstrated appetite for Irish growth and its parent company's significant financial firepower.

Allianz already has a relationship with IL&P since the Irish plc is a minority shareholder in Allianz Ireland. Allianz has traditionally shied away from the Irish life insurance market because of its relationship with IL&P.

Met Life, which already has a small operation here, and a number of other international life insurers are also seen as potential suitors for ILA, along with several private equity outfits.

IL&P continues to pursue the prospect of launching ILA on to the stock market, even though Finance Minister Michael Noonan has described a trade sale as the preferred route for disposing of ILA.

It is understood that Mr Noonan's department questioned IL&P about the costs that would be incurred through exploring the IPO but was reassured that costs would only be payable if the IPO proceeds.

The IPO will only proceed if it can generate more money than a trade sale, an outcome that would ultimately benefit the State and justify any advisory costs.

Irish Independent