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Sean Quinn may hold 11pc stake in Anglo

IRELAND'S richest man, billionaire Sean Quinn is thought to have built up a near 11 per cent stake in the country's third largest bank Anglo Irish Bank. This is twice as big a stake as had been previously thought.

"We believe he may hold 10 or 11 per cent," according to London financial sources.

Quinn is thought to have increased his position in Anglo Irish Bank through the use of "contracts for difference" (CFDs) in recent months. An 11 per cent stake in Anglo was worth €1.15bn last week. This would make it the largest stake held by an individual in any Irish listed company.

"We have investments in a number of different companies and are not making any comment," according to a spokesman for the Quinn Group.

Ireland is one of the few places in Europe where investors do not have to reveal shareholdings amassed through CFDs. However this situation is likely to change in coming months, with the introduction of new regulations.

Quinn's stakebuilding first emerged some months ago, when investment bank Credit Suisse Securities (Europe) and Credit Suisse International were linked with the purchase of a 5 per cent stake in Anglo Irish Bank. The Credit Suisse fronted stake has since risen to as high as 6.22 per cent of the bank in recent weeks.

One financier indicated that Credit Suisse was no longer being uniquely used by Quinn, after the first revelations of his stake building emerged.

Dealing sources have suggested that both UK and Irish institutions have been active helping Quinn build up his position.

Both NCB Stockbrokers, which is 25 per cent owned by Quinn, and Davy are said to have been involved in buying shares. It is understood that the shareholding is owned by Quinn, his family and a variety of interlinked investment vehicles.

The billionaire's intentions towards Anglo Irish Bank are not clear.

When details of his stake first emerged, sources close to the Quinn Group indicated that it was "an investment".

The billionaire was described as being very bullish about Anglo's growth prospects and about the ability of its chief executive David Drumm. Anglo declined to comment.

While the stake-building may indeed be an "investment", it is difficult to ignore the fact that Quinn is rapidly becoming a major force in the financial services and insurance sector, through Quinn Life and Quinn Direct.

A link up with the €10.5bn valued Anglo Irish Bank would create a financial superpower on the Irish market.

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The billionaire certainly knows Anglo Irish Bank operations well. He is a major customer of the bank, with Companies Office records showing Quinn companies being financed through Anglo loans.

Despite the recent stock market crash, Quinn has made sizeable gains on his Anglo investment. Sources have suggested that large volumes of shares were acquired last year, when Anglo Irish Bank was trading at well below current prices.

Quinn's investment in Anglo Irish Bank marks something of a u-turn for the media shy tycoon.

Some years ago, the conjuction of the bursting technology bubble and stockmarket volatility led to trading losses of up to €70m at the Quinn Group and the businessman famously sacked himself as a fund manager.

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