Eircom shares set to start trading at €1.55

Eircom is set to return to the London and Dublin stock exchanges today in a flotation that values the Irish telecoms giant at €1.15bn (£628m).

The group is believed to have priced its initial public offering at €1.55 a share last night, compared with an initial price range of between €1.48 and €1.75. Trading in the shares is due to begin this afternoon.

Eircom is returning to the stock market three years after it was taken private by Valentia, a consortium that includes Providence Equity, the Hungarian financier George Soros, and Sir Anthony O'Reilly, who is the executive chairman of The Independent's publisher, Independent News & Media.

The group serves about 80 per cent of the residential telecoms market in Ireland and has a fast-growing broadband division. The company posted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of €450m for the final nine months of 2003, compared with an Ebitda profit of €440m for the whole of 2002.

The flotation also includes about €300m in new equity, which will be used to reduce Eircom's debt, currently standing at about €2bn. The Valentia owners are reducing most of their 71 per cent stake in the IPO, but the employee shareholding trust, which owns the other 29 per cent, was expected to subscribe to new shares to avoid diluting its holding.

The deal is the largest flotation in Europe so far this year. It is also the first telecommunications company to list in Europe since Orange went public three years ago.

Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley were joint bookrunners to the flotation.

However, a fellow telecom, Belgium's Belgacom, is set to raise up to €4bn in its own initial public offering, which is due to price this weekend.

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