Hutchison Whampoa’s Irish mobile unit 3 Ireland has hired Goldman Sachs to advise it on a possible EUR1 billion (USD1.47 billion) takeover bid for Meteor, the mobile arm of national PTO eircom, reports the Sunday Independent without citing its sources. eircom’s majority shareholder Babcock & Brown Capital may be looking to sell Meteor, although eircom told the paper it had not been approached about a possible deal and had no plans to sell the wireless business. Nonetheless, the Sunday Independent claims London market sources have confirmed Goldman Sachs has been conducting extensive research into the viability of a takeover of the business, albeit adding that the process is at a ‘very preliminary stage’.
Buying Meteor could prove to be a very smart move for 3 Ireland. Latest data shows the eircom-owned unit had 908,000 subscribers by the end of November 2007, roughly four times that of the fast-growing 3G operator. As well as gaining access to a sizeable subscriber base, combining Meteor and 3 Ireland’s networks and operations would create substantial synergies, reducing costs and enabling 3 Ireland to benefit from its rival’s extensive retail network across the Republic.