Monday 20 November 2017

Legal challenge lodged to the sale of Irish Life

Tim Healy

A LEGAL challenge is being brought to the sale of Irish Life to Canadian firm Great-West, the parent company of Canada Life, for €1.3 billion.

The contract of sale for the life assurance business was agreed by the Minister for Finance today at 1pm though the deal is not expected to be finalised until July, the High Court heard.


The Minister had acquired the Irish Life Group from Irish Life and Permanent in late 2012.


However shareholders of Irish Life's holding company Irish Life and Permanent Group Holdings plc (ILPGH) want the sale blocked.


The court heard today that, in their proceedings against the Minister for Finance, the shareholders want the sale, which they allege is illegal, postponed until all legal actions concerning the ownership of Irish Life are resolved.


Today, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy was told by one of the shareholders bringing the action, Piotr Skoczylas, who is a non executive director of Permanent TSB,  it was his intention to seek a temporary injunction aimed at blocking the sale.


However, he agreed with the Judge that while the contract of sale had been signed, it would not be finalised until later this year and therefore the immediate urgency had gone out of the matter.


Representing himself, Mr Skoczylas said that he intends to ask the court for an injunction preventing the Minister's sale of the company pending the final outcome of the full hearing of his action. He also wished to modify his claim to reflect the fact the contract of sale had already been agreed.


Eoin McCullough SC, for the Minister, said his side were surprised that an action was being brought "so late in the day" to block the sale.


However, the Minister wanted any action in relation to Irish Life's sale to be heard as soon as possible.


The judge agreed to adjourn the matter for a week, to allow the sides exchange legal documents.


Last December Mr Skoczylas was among a group of shareholders who action aimed at preventing the sale of Irish Life from ILPGH to the Minister was dismissed by the High Court.


The Government acquired more than 99.8 per cent of ILPGH after injecting €2.7 billion into the group in July 2011, resulting in the shareholder's equity in ILPGH being diluted from 100% to 0.2%. Mr Skoczylas is one of 130,000 shareholders who, following recapitalisation, own 0.2% of the ILPGH.

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