Business Irish

Monday 22 January 2018

Firm behind State's data network posts its first profit

John Mulligan

Enet, the private company that manages dozens of state-owned fibre-optic metropolitan networks around the country, posted an after-tax profit of €1.7m in the 12 months to the end of April. It's the first time it has ever emerged from a full-year's trading in the black.

The profit for the last financial year compared to a loss of almost €1m in the previous 12 months. Revenue for the last fiscal period also rose sharply, by 49pc to €13.9m, according to figures seen by the Irish Independent.

Enet manages a total of 93 metropolitan area networks (MANs) in towns and cities all over Ireland on behalf of the State.

The networks were built at a cost of roughly €160m to the taxpayer in order to provide high-speed telecommunications services in areas where it would not have been commercially viable for private firms to install such equipment.

The latest set of Enet accounts almost exclusively relate to the management of the 27 MANs that were rolled out under the first phase of the fibre-optic project.

Last month, the company formally took charge of the second phase of MANs to have been developed by the State, bringing an additional 66 networks into its fold.

Enet's customers include telecoms firms such as Vodafone, O2, UPC and BT. Vodafone signed a €17m, 15-year deal with Enet last year to use the MANs for data transmission.

Speaking to the Irish Independent yesterday, Enet chief executive Conal Henry said that the ability of the company to lure big contracts and clients served to justify the investment in the MANs, which had been subject to some strong criticism.

A value-for-money report published after the deployment of the first phase of MANs criticised the selection process for identifying towns where they would be laid and also the overall cost of the project.

However, the report also stressed that the MANs had contributed significantly to the competitiveness of regional centres in Ireland.

Digital divide

"The MANs have certainly helped to close the digital divide," said Mr Henry, noting that consumers in many towns served by the networks can now avail of telecoms services previously only available in major urban centres.

He said that revenue and profit growth should still be in double-digit percentages this financial year, but that a difficult economic backdrop meant the high level of growth reported last year is unlikely to be repeated.

Enet's shareholders include Limerick-based Michael and Maeve Tiernan, owners of Marchfield Properties, while venture capital firm ACT also owns a sizeable stake in the business.

Irish Independent

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