BT to Buy Irish Telco Esat, Telenor Backs Off

British Telecommunications PLC (BT) has agreed to buy Esat Telecom Group PLC for US$2.46 billion [B], the Irish telecommunications company announced yesterday.

Esat, the second largest telephone company in Ireland, welcomed yesterday's bid from "white knight" BT after having rejected a $1.6 billion [B], or $85 per share, hostile takeover attempt by the Norwegian Telenor AS last December. [See "Esat Board Rejects "Unwelcome" Telenor/Telia Bid," Dec. 22, 1999.]Telenor has dropped its bid for Esat as the company believes BT is paying too much for the Irish company, Telenor said in a statement, also issued yesterday.

The deal between BT and Esat, worth $100 for each Esat American depository share, is subject to regulatory approval.

Another sticking point yet to be worked out is the fate of Esat's mobile phone division, Esat Digifone. Telenor owns 49.5 percent and BT owns 1 percent of Esat Digifone. For BT to acquire Esat Digifone would be contrary to the preemption provisions contained in Esat Digifone's shareholder agreement and articles of association, Telenor said in its statement. The company did add that it was in talks with BT over the matter.

British Telecommunications, in London, can be contacted at +44-171-356-5000 or at http://www.bt.com. Esat Telecom, located in Dublin, can be contacted at +353-1-661-6010, or http://www.esat.ie/. Telenor, in Oslo, Norway, can be contacted at +47-22-77-6060, or http://telenor.com/.

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