Babcock & Brown edge closer to Eircom bid - The Irish Times says that advisers to Babcock & Brown Capital are believed to have met advisers to the Eircom employee share ownership plan (Esop) as the Australian investment group mulls a bid for the telecoms company. Market sources said yesterday that Babcock & Brown had been active in preparing a takeover proposal and was ready to move with a full bid. As yet, there have been no formal meetings between Babcock & Brown and the Esop, whose support would be critical to the success of any takeover proposal. But the parties are thought to have engaged through their advisers on a preliminary basis. It is believed that full funding is in place for a takeover, although it is still possible that the investment firm could look to join forces with another party. Some believe a domestic or industry partner could make an approach from Babcock & Brown more palatable to the trust that holds 21% of Eircom for current and former staff. Without this, the investment firm's lack of industry expertise could be seen as a problem for the Esop, one source suggested.

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US giant MetLife is planning Irish base - The Irish Independent says that MetLife, one of the biggest names in life assurance, is understood to be close to opening an Irish operation that will primarily target the UK unit-linked investment market. Efforts to get confirmation from the company drew a blank yesterday, while a spokeswoman for the IDA said: 'We can't confirm or deny it.' A spokeswoman for MetLife in New York said the company had 'nothing specific to share with you right now'. Life assurance market sources in Dublin said that the giant American group is awaiting formal authorisation from the Financial Regulator, but that office declined to comment one way or the other. The Irish operation will essentially be an administration centre to support a UK-based sales team. The unit will have the capacity to sell assurance-linked products across other European borders but it is thought that the UK is very much the primary focus. It is not known how big an operation is planned for Ireland. This will depend, say sources, on whether MetLife opts to outsource most of its administration or chooses to handle it inhouse, as another major US assurer, Hartford Life, has done. It set up in Swords last year and currently employs some 60 people.

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Kerryman newspaper seeking redundancies - The Irish Examiner says that management at The Kerryman newspaper in Tralee is seeking a substantial number of redundancies among its 80-plus staff, mainly in production areas. The Kerryman is the flagship in the Irish Independent-owned regional newspaper group, but is believed to have lost some lucrative outside printing contracts. It is understood that staff in the printing and binding departments are being offered redundancy terms, but such offers are not being made to the advertising and editorial departments. A preliminary meeting between management and some unions was held on Monday and another has been arranged for next Tuesday.

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Land Rover aims to cut 1,300 jobs - Land Rover yesterday announced details of a voluntary redundancy programme which will see the loss of 1,300 jobs in the UK, writes the Guardian. The move follows a decision to shift production of the Land Rover Freelander from Solihull to Halewood on Merseyside and to stop making diesel engines for the Defender at the West Midlands site. Solihull, which employs about 8,000 people, will continue to produce the Defender using engines made at Ford's diesel plant in Dagenham, the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. The new engine is expected to mean production of the Defender continuing until at least 2010. Land Rover, which is part of Ford's Premier Automotive Group, said the redundancy terms were 'an industry leading package' but declined to give details.