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J.C. Flowers Said to Hire JPMorgan for Bid on Dublin-Based Lender EBS

J.C. Flowers & Co., the U.S. buyout firm, hired JPMorgan Chase & Co. to advise on a bid for Ireland’s largest customer-owned lender, three people familiar with the situation said.

J.C. Flowers, run by former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker Christopher Flowers, retained JPMorgan as it prepared a bid for EBS Building Society, based in Dublin, the people said.

The customer-owned society is seeking to raise 785 million euros ($1.03 billion) to meet new capital standards set by the country’s financial regulator. Irish banks are raising money as bad debts increase after a decade-long real estate boom collapsed, with prices falling by half.

Ireland’s government has injected 350 million euros into EBS and will provide more capital if the building society can’t attract private money. Irish Life & Permanent Plc and Dublin- based Cardinal Asset Management, backed by U.S. buyout firm Carlyle Group, were also among four companies to submit initial offers, a person with direct knowledge of the situation said on July 27.

Some or all of the government cash may be repaid by the successful bidder. All four initial bids envisaged joint ownership of EBS with the Irish government, according to another person. Final bids are due Aug. 9.

J.C. Flowers said today it plans to inject 50 million pounds ($79 million) into Kent Reliance Building Society as part of a plan to acquire more customer-owned lenders in the U.K. The company is also interested in investments in Spain and Ireland, David Morgan, J.C. Flowers’ managing director for Europe and Asia Pacific, said on a conference call with reporters.

JPMorgan spokeswoman Marie Cheung and Gerry O’Sullivan, a spokesman for EBS, all declined to comment. Mike Harrison, a spokesman for J.C. Flowers, also declined to comment.

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