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Worker share trust warned it may not have any future role in Eircom

EIRCOM workers have been told that it remains uncertain if the company's Employee Share Ownership Trust (ESOT) will have any role in the troubled telco's future.

Senior lenders are poised to take control of the business as it struggles with a €3.7bn debt burden.

ESOT chairman Jerome Barrett told members of the scheme that the situation at Eircom was "likely to remain fluid for some time". ESOT owns 35pc of Eircom.

Mr Barrett's comments come just two weeks after Eircom's other main owner -- Singapore Technologies Telemedia (STT) -- effectively threw in the towel in its efforts to retain a stake in the Irish company.

"As it stands, the ESOT is not a party to the senior lenders' proposal," Mr Barrett told its members.

"What can be expected is that some form of M&A process may be undertaken," he said, adding that what role the ESOT would have, if any, in the future "will only be determined as the process evolves.

"What will become of our shareholdings in Eircom may not be fully known until this current process concludes," Mr Barrett pointed out.

"As it stands, our preference shares are segregated from the general assets of the company and that affords them protection from creditors of the company, while our Vodafone shares are unaffected by what is happening in Eircom."

The ESOT owns a significant amount of shares in Vodafone, which it secured following the sale of Eircom's Eircell unit to the British group in 2000. Those shares are worth over €50m.

STT owns 65pc of Eircom. Just before Christmas, three STT-linked directors resigned from the Eircom board after the Asian group's €200m restructuring plan for the Irish telco was rebuffed by senior lenders.

A raft of first lien lenders at Eircom have offered to write off 8pc of the nearly €2.4bn they're owed in return for taking control of the telco. That would also involve wiping out debts owed to other lenders and to do so Eircom could have to enter examinership either in Ireland or in the UK.

Investment bank Morgan Stanley has been preparing a sales document for Eircom to lure potential buyers.

Irish Independent