Tuesday 24 October 2017

€4bn valuation of company disputed by some observers

Emmet Oliver

The ESB is the country's most valuable state-owned company, worth almost three times any other state-owned enterprise. As a result it tends to attract a lot of interest from mergers and acquisitions specialists interested in any trade sale of the company.

The most recent valuation of the company was done by UCD economist Colm McCarthy, who put a €4bn price tag on it. This was based on the value of its assets today, but buyers could pay a lot more or less than this depending on timing and the company's ability to increase its profits in future years.

Other observers put the value of the company nearer to €3bn due to its large debt load and pension deficit.

But they also added that ESB's cost base is higher than many of its peers, leaving room for any acquirer to squeeze more cash from the business.

Utilities like ESB tend to be viewed as good defensive stocks by investors, with most of the ESB's European peers currently valued on the stock market at over nine times their annual profits.

The ESB's ability to throw off regular predictable cash is obvious in its financial statements, but the last results for the company showed revenues slipping as the economy here stalled.

Whatever the company is now worth, it is likely to be a lot less than it was at the tail end of the boom.

Irish Independent

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