Ervia cash flows as semi-state firms pay out €2.4bn dividends
Commercial semi-state firms have paid out €2.4bn in dividends to the Exchequer since 2010.
According to new figures provided by the Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, commercial semi-state firms last year paid out dividends of €261.19m to the State. The €261.19m dividend payout last year by nine commercial semi-states is 19pc down on the €323.74m paid out by 10 commercial semi-state firms in 2017.
The biggest contributor last year was the operator of Irish Water and Bord Gáis, Ervia which paid out a dividend of €139m - though the payout by Ervia last year was down on the €148m it paid to Government in 2017.
In a written Dáil reply to Fianna Fáil Finance spokesman Michael McGrath, Mr Donohoe confirmed that the next largest dividend last year was made by the DAA totalling €37.4m. The 31.5 million record passenger numbers at Dublin airport allowed it to increase its dividend by 28.5pc from the €29.1m paid into the Exchequer in 2017.
The only other commercial semi-state to pay more than €30m to the State last year was the ESB when it paid out €33m.
That was significantly down on dividends paid out by the ESB in prior years. In 2017, the ESB paid out €109.9m and this followed dividend payouts of €82.16m in 2016, €258.7m in 2015, €269.1m in 2014 and €139.46m in 2013.
Over the 2010-to-2018 period, the ESB has been the largest contributor of dividends from commercial semi-states to the Exchequer, handing over €1.12bn.
Ervia has been the second-largest contributor paying out €744m in dividends between 2014 and 2018.
A number of other semi-state firms significantly increased their dividend payout last year.
The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) last year paid out €19.45m - more than double the €9.24m paid out in 2017.
The board of Coillte also sharply increased its dividend, paying out €15m compared to €8m in 2017. More modest increases in dividends were recorded at the Dublin Port Company which paid out €12.17m in 2018 compared to €11.7m in 2017 and the Port of Cork company which paid out €714,000 compared to €693,091 in 2017.
Shannon Foynes Port company increased its dividend by 20pc from €250,000 in 2017 to €300,000 last year.
The dividend payout last year by Eirgrid was static with 2017 levels at €4m.
Bord na Móna made no dividend payout last year after paying out €2.3m in 2017 and €3.7m in 2016.
The dividend payouts by commercial semi-states during the nine-year period reached a peak in 2014 when €470.6m was paid out, driven mainly that year by dividends of €269m from the ESB and €171m from Ervia.
Mr McGrath said while dividend payments have been an important source of revenue for the Government in recent years "it should be recognised these dividends are ultimately being paid by the end consumers buying goods and services from these companies".
He argued that "consumers are better served in the end by lower prices rather than massive dividend payments going back to the central exchequer".