Eircom shares could trade on ‘grey market’ from next week

EIRCOM shares could be free to trade on the so-called “grey market” from late next week.

Shares in the phone company are now worth around €600m, up from nothing just months ago.

Banks and investment funds that took control of Eircom following its 2012 examinership will vote next Friday on whether to scrap a so-called “staple” agreement that means anyone buying or selling shares in the private company must also trade a share of the company debt.

That arrangement was put in place to prevent a repeat of the previous deadlock between groups of lenders and shareholders who had struggled for control of the group over the two years prior to the examinership. Eircom’s last set of shareholders were wiped out and their stake stripped away from them when the business emerged from examinership.

The group of around 200 secured lenders took control of the business in 2012 in return for writing off a share of debt – they now hold all of the shares in the company as well as being owed €2bn by Eircom.

The vote next week is on a proposal to “destaple” the loans and equity with immediate effect – which would allow new shareholders to buy into Eircom without having to become lenders and the debt to trade independent of shares. It requires 100pc approval from those voting.

If the vote is rejected, debt and equity will be separated in June. The vote is one of a number of proposals being put to the group – including asking lenders to extend the term of their debt by two years in return for higher interest rates. Stockbrokers say that a “grey market” for Eircom shares is likely to spring up immediately if the vote is carried. Until then, gauging the current price for Eircom shares is difficult, because they do not trade on a stand-alone basis. Loans that the shares are stapled to were changing hands at 130pc of face value last night.


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