| 7.4°C Dublin

ESB highlights dividends to McCarthy

The ESB has highlighted the dividends it pays to the state each year in a letter to economist Colm McCarthy whose group is reviewing the entire semi-state sector.

The emphasis placed on the dividends the company produces each year may be read as a hint that the company thinks it would be better to remain in the semi-state sector rather than being privatised.

The Irish Independent understands the letter talks about the "strong commercial returns" the company has produced for the State, with the company paying out dividends of €815m over the last eight years, with €95m going to the exchequer.

The company also pointed out that in 2009 ESB also provided €400m of support to the market to stabilise and reduce the price of electricity.

Mr McCarthy is the chairman of the Review Group on State Assets and Liabilities and this group is expected to recommend the privatisation of several states assets, potentially starting with Bord Gais.

While outside investment is likely to be brought in, the Government is expected to retain 'golden shares' in a number of businesses.

It also has reservations about letting gas and electricity networks fall into the hands of the private sector.

An ESB spokesman told the Irish Independent: "In the light of competing national priorities, the ESB sees the issue of ownership to be a matter for the shareholders, and particularly for Government as the majority shareholder, to consider.

"The ESB will fully support the work of the group and has offered to meet with Mr McCarthy."

The sale of the semi-states would generate a large one-off windfall for the state, possibly amounting to several billion euro.

Last week the influential economist Dr Peter Bacon said a portion of this money could be used to reduce mortgage debt in the economy, which is acting as a restraint on consumer spending.

Irish Independent