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Bertie's forestry fund could buy woods if Coillte split up

AS the drive to sell state assets intensifies, a spokesperson for the International Forestry Fund chaired by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said that it would be interested in purchasing forestry from the Irish Government, but only if Coillte was broken up as recommended in the McCarthy report.

The sale of state assets, including Coillte, the ESB and Bord Gais, was discussed at cabinet last Thursday following a report by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin on the recommendations of the asset review group. A government spokesperson confirmed that a decision on the sale of assets is to be made before the next round of negotiations with the EU-IMF.

However, for the first time the fund has ruled out the possibility of buying Coillte from the State. According to director Paul Brosnan, "We never considered buying Coillte -- it is of absolutely zero interest to us. Coillte is a fully integrated company, it's involved in manufacturing, processing, it owns mountain-tops, it owns lakes. We're solely interested in forestry itself."

While the fund is focusing on Central America, Mr Brosnan said that if the State wished to sell forestry, the fund would be interested. "Quality assets will generate a quality price -- if the strategic fit was right, we would look at acquiring land in Ireland."

Sunday Indo Business