Thursday 23 November 2017

Burning issues for Gais chief

Michael McNicholas of Bord Gais
Michael McNicholas of Bord Gais

Talk about a baptism of fire. Bord Gais chief executive Michael McNicholas is barely six months in the job, but if he thought last week's decision to long-finger the sale of its Bord Gais Energy unit was going to mean a respite, he was mistaken.

Brokers Davy are out of the traps this week with a report suggesting McNicholas (pictured) and his bosses in Cabinet could look at breaking up Bord Gais and selling some of its parts, or potentially even look at a stock market listing.

The idea of a stock market sale has already been "floated" by the ISEQ's own chief executive Deirdre Somers.

Memories on Merrion Street of the fallout after the sale of Eircom probably mean that's a non-runner.

But breaking up Bord Gais into investor-size chunks might bring in a few quid, and seems unlikely to meet some political resistance – it's hard to see an ideological rationale for the State's gas company owning electricity-generating wind farms or the €500m Whitegate gas-powered electricity station in Cork.

But it could be a lot of work for relatively little gain.

Brokers and analysts mulling over the next steps for Bord Gais should bear in mind that minds and bodies can only stretch so far.

As he waves goodbye to 2013, Michael McNicholas already has serious fish to fry (on his no doubt gas-fired hob), including the monster job of establishing Irish Water.

Getting the country's first ever national water utility off the ground is going to be an epic challenge.

Irish Independent

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