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Saturday 25 November 2017

DAA chief strongly opposed to airport privatisation idea

Emmet Oliver

THE chief of the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), Declan Collier, poured cold water on the idea of privatising Dublin Airport during discussions he had last year with economist Colm McCarthy, who was reviewing the semi-state sector.

Several government departments also told Mr McCarthy any sales of their spare assets were unlikely to produce very large sums. Several semi-states are also burdened with big pension deficits, the economist was told.

A submission by Mr Collier from October and released at the weekend shows the aviation chief to be strongly opposed to selling Dublin Airport to the private sector.

While admitting the decision was ultimately for government, Mr Collier pointed out that only 2pc of the world's airports were managed or owned by the private sector.

He said early indications were that selling Dublin Airport would only result in "extremely modest'' proceeds.

He also claimed the government would lose control of vital strategic assets and that allowing private sector players in could hurt the level of customer service at the airport.

It came as several top civil servants admitted that proceeds from the sale of semi-states were likely to be disappointing.

Deficits

In a series of letters and submissions, the department heads admitted there were a number of challenges to selling off state assets, including the size of their pension deficits.

Department of Public Transport head Tom O'Mahony outlined a series of pension deficits at various companies that would hurt any sales process. For example, CIE is labouring under a €547m pension deficit, with the Irish Aviation Authority stuck with a deficit of €234m, while a number of the smaller port companies were also dealing with deficits.

The ESB chairman Lochlann Quinn meanwhile sidestepped the issue of whether that company should be privatised.

Mr Quinn said it was an issue for the government and the company had no overall collective view.

Irish Independent

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