Thursday 18 January 2018

Coillte puts hand up for a slice of the National Broadband Plan

Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

Coillte is the latest company to put its hand up for business opportunities provided by the State-subsidised National Broadband Plan, in what appears to be a reversal of its exit from the telecoms sector.

The state forestry company wants to rent out its land to companies who will deliver the huge state-subsidised scheme, which intends to roll out high-speed broadband to hundreds of thousands of homes across rural Ireland.

Five private groups have already bid to deliver the scheme - they are thought to be Vodafone/ESB joint venture Siro, Eir, eNet (which is backed by US telecoms entrepreneur David McCourt), Sean Bolger's Imagine group and the Gigabit consortium.

The Government has promised to spend up to €500m on the plan, which may be awarded in two contracts.

Coillte owns approximately 6pc of Ireland's land.

"The National Broadband Plan is a very important government initiative and part of Coillte's strategy is to deploy its assets in support of government policies," a spokesperson for the group said. "Coillte land is available and we are keen to collaborate on a commercial basis."

Coillte had until now appeared to be stepping out of the telecoms business, selling its network of 298 telecoms masts to a French investment fund, Infravia Capital Partners, for about €70m last August.

As well as masts, that portfolio included sites which were leased by Coillte to other companies who developed masts while Coillte acted as landlord - the same sort of business it now appears to be seeking as part of the National Broadband Plan.

Last year, Coillte completed a strategic review of its business led by new chief executive Fergal Leamy.

It now includes plans to double output from Coillte's forests over the next decade.

The target is to achieve a 5pc cash yield on assets.

Sunday Indo Business

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