As Telecom Eireann, eircom was the national telecommunications company of Ireland, owned by the state. Its monopoly on phone services was ended by deregulation in the late 1990s, and the government came up with the wheeze of selling the company back to its owners, the citizens of Ireland, in a public flotation. This was a similar jape to that carried off by the British government many years earlier with their Gas and Electricity services.

In addition to institutional investors, thousands of ordinary folk applied to purchase shares in 1999, paying between IR£250 and IR£10,000 for a slice of the action. However, the issue proved to be overvalued and, apart from an initial rise, the shares have consistently traded well below their issue price.

eircom operates two ISPs in Ireland, Indigo and It used to own the mobile phone network Eircell, but this has now been sold to Vodafone. Despite its depressed share price, however, in 2001 eircom was the subject a frenzied bidding war by two companies seeking to take it over. These were the eIsland consortium, led by Dennis O'Brien (Irish businessman who sold his Esat telecommunications business to BT in 2000) and Valentia, a consortium fronted by Heinz/Independent Newspapers supremo Tony O'Reilly. After many bids and counter bids, O'Reilly succeeded in convincing over 80% of the company's shareholders to sell him the company at a knock-down price.

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