Irish Life and Permanent  (IL&P) were hoping to buy EBS – but last week they lost out to a consortium called Cardinal – who are now the preferred bidder for EBS.

Cardinal is an Irish-led consortium,  backed by New York-based billionaire investor Wilbur Ross and US private equity group Carlyle.

Kevin Murphy, the chief executive of IL&P, said the company would be interested in talks with Cardinal on the merger if the consortium completes the purchase of EBS.

Between them – EBS and PTSB  have over one-third of all Irish mortgages .

Cardinal has indicated it wants EBS to be the first in a number of takeovers by the group as the banking sector is restructured under the EU-IMF bailout.