Eircom's advisers have approached some of Europe's largest private-equity firms as the phone company mulls a sale or a return to the stock market,  people with knowledge of the matter said.

According to reports on Bloomberg, Apax Partners, CVC Capital Partners and KKR & Co are among the buyout firms that have been approached to form a consortium for the company. 

Eircom has changed ownership six times since 1999.

The company, which emerged from bankruptcy protection in 2012 after €1.8 billion, or 40%, of its debt was written off, has not made any decision on its options, other sources said. 

A return to the stock market is seen as helping cut the company's €2.2 billion net debt, they added. 

Talks with private-equity firms are said to be at an early stage. An initial public offering would see Eircom target a main listing in Dublin, with a second quotation in London, the sources said. 

The company is being advised by Rothschild, Goldman Sachs Group and Morgan Stanley. 

The company has an estimated value of about €2.6 billion, according to David Holohan, head of research at Merrion
Capital in Dublin. Eircom's shares last traded in 2006. 

Blackstone Group, which owns a quarter of the firm through its debt arm GSO Capital Partners LP, was among the firms
approached and chose not to pursue a bid, another person said according to Bloomberg.

The New York-based firm led a group of senior lenders seizing control of the company two years ago under a debt restructuring.

Eircom has been cutting jobs and upgrading its broadband network under a plan to revive revenues and earnings. The
company's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation for the nine months through March fell 1% to
€352m, according to latest available figures.