Thursday 23 November 2017

Selling off semi-states would raise up to €10bn

Emmet Oliver Deputy Business Editor

PRIVATISING semi-state firms will raise up to €10bn, EU officials who designed the country's rescue plan have predicted.

The comments were made in a phone call with international investors this week, the Irish Independent has learned.

The "energy sector" was specifically mentioned by the EU staff, meaning companies like ESB and Bord Gais are now almost certain to be privatised.

The EU officials, led by István P Székely, Mission Chief of the European Commission for Ireland, acknowledged that no sales could happen until a report by economist Colm McCarthy was submitted.

But privatisations are likely to take place in the short to medium term. The officials said the proceeds would be used to reduce the national debt.

The ESB is the most valuable company in the semi-state sector and would bring in proceeds of several billion euros.


But the Government may be reluctant to sell off the electricity distribution and transmission networks, which are regarded as essential infrastructure by most economists.

A more narrowly focused option would be to sell just the company's overseas assets and its power stations.

And a less controversial option would be for the Government to bring in a strategic investor with the state keeping a so-called 'golden share'.

Bord Gais is seen as a less controversial candidate for privatisation.

Other options would include the sale of RTE's masts business and the National Lottery, which is currently run by An Post under a licence agreement.

Irish Independent

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