Monday 5 December 2016

ESB and Bord Gais top list of options for IMF sell-off

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

Published 09/09/2011 | 05:00

THE ESB and Bord Gais are top of the list of options of state assets to be privatised to meet the IMF-EU demands to bring in €2bn.

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The Government will ask its in-house financial experts to estimate how much can be made from the sell-off of the country's crown jewels.

Cork and Shannon airports are also on the list of potential sell-offs, along with most of the country's ports.

But Dublin Airport and Dublin Port won't be sold, as they are regarded as too strategically important to let go.

The remaining stake in Aer Lingus will be examined, but would probably depend on getting a good price in a deflated international market.

Coillte is also on the list, as is the National Lottery, but even thinking about selling that is being ruled out privately by some ministers.

Cork and Shannon are under the spotlight because a long-term plan is needed for the country's three major airports, a source said.

However, no decisions have been made yet on what will be sold off. The next step will be to whittle down the shortlist of all assets into a list of possible sales and assess their value.

A firm list of assets for sale is expected to be prepared by the end of October.

The Government is under time pressure from the International Monetary Fund and European Union to indicate how it plans to raise the funds agreed in the bailout deal.

A government spokesperson said a decision would have to be reached before negotiations in October on implementation of the agreement.

"Dr Chopra will be looking for his pound of flesh when the IMF come back in October," a source said.

The State's money managers, the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), will be appointed in the coming weeks, possibly at the next meeting of the Government on Tuesday, to assess the value of each asset. "A decision will be made in terms of progression," a source said.

Departments are currently working off the Bord Snip report prepared by economist Colm McCarthy two years ago.

Government sources admit the current values of the assets and how they would be sold has not been examined in detail.

"Nothing is excluded from the list. But none of that exercise has been undertaken," a source said.

The energy companies are regarded as the obvious choices for privatisation, despite concerns.

Reservations

In the wake of the Eircom sell-off over a decade ago, there are severe reservations about letting parts of the infrastructure be sold. But a percentage of the ESB, in particular, and also Bord Gais, will be on the table.

Letting the power stations go will definitely be considered. Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin brought a memo to Cabinet yesterday listing the assets owned by the State. The list is expected to be whittled down in the coming weeks to what would actually be considered for sale.

The NTMA will have a new unit set up, called New Era. New Era was Fine Gael's dreamchild to set up a semi-state company to invest in broadband, energy and water infrastructure. The first task of New Era will be to assess the value of the individual assets.

Irish Independent

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