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Update On line bank Egg has confirmed that it is holding exclusive negotiations to buy French financial ebusiness Zebank.

Earlier today a spokeswoman for Egg refused to comment on newspaper reports concerning a possible tie-up describing them as "rumour and speculation."

However, in a statement issued at lunchtime the company confirmed that it is in "exclusive discussions with Groupe Arnault and Dexia which may or may not lead to the acquisition of a majority holding in Zebank".

It added that Zebank is also pursuing discussions with unnamed French retailers to secure distribution arrangements.

Egg added that, as yet, nothing had been finalised. Nor could it guarantee that the deal would go ahead.

However, if it does go ahead it would give Egg the chance to break into Europe and expand its business, according to the FT.

Zebank - owned by Bernard Arnault, one of France's richest men - launched last year and has more than 100,000 accounts.

In November Egg reported its first profit since floating in June 2000 keeping its promise that it would break-even by the end of 2001.

By mid afternoon shares in Egg had slipped 7p (4.73 per cent) to 141p. ®

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