Coillte eyes €125m sale of stake in wind farms

Coillte CEO Fergal Leamy

Colm Kelpie

Coillte is looking to sell its stakes in four wind farms in a move that the commercial semi-state hopes will reap at least €125m.

The sales process will explore investor interest in buying Coillte's 50pc stake in each of its join venture wind farms at Raheenleagh, Co Wicklow, Cloosh Valley, Co Galway, and Castlepook in Co Cork, and a 25pc stake in Sliabh Bawn in Co Roscommon.

The wind farms were co-developed with ESB, SSE and Bord na Mona.

A €125m return would represent a multiple of five times the investment made by the state forestry agency in the assets over the last four years.

"We are a developer of these assets and our job is to maximise the value of every hectare, and when we looked at the market, now is the right time to do that for the existing portfolio," said Coillte CEO Fergal Leamy.

"We would then reinvest a portion of those proceeds in the future."

The commercial semi-state announced in October that it was considering the sale of its wind portfolio.

Mr Leamy said that based on that announcement, the body had received a lot of enquiries from across the world, and from pension funds both in Ireland and in the US.

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Coillte said that in addition to the sale income, it will also receive long-term land lease income throughout the farms' operational lives as they are located on Coillte land.

The company said it will also seek interest from prospective investors for the potential future acquisition of two wind farm projects currently in final planning review.

Mr Leamy said the sale will give the company a strong balance sheet.

"It will make us a very strong company that is not as susceptible to shocks," Mr Leamy said.

"All the talk is about Brexit at the moment, but in our business, every 10 years there is a shock. It is very construction-related driven. Our plan is to fix Coillte for good."

Coillte said that it intends to put the proceeds of the sale back into the business with a focus on core forestry activities, as well as co-funding of new wind development opportunities and other "strategic opportunities".

It said later in the year it will be launching details of how it plans to develop more than 1,000 MW of renewable energy generating capacity over the next 10 years across a pipeline of 25 projects.

It said it also has plans to develop a pipeline of future renewable energy projects with a partner, while retaining ownership of the land.

Irish Independent

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