Public were kept in dark on plans to sell €400m of ESB assets
The government has ordered the ESB to raise up to €400m by selling off power stations, the Irish Independent has learned.
The plan to sell hundreds of millions of euro worth of state assets was announced in a note to the bond markets earlier this week, but was not revealed to the public or the national media until now.
The revelations are contained in an "investor update" for financial investors who lend money to the Electricity Supply Board (ESB). It was published without fanfare in a subsection of the ESB's corporate website on Wednesday.
The sales are to be finalised by the end of 2014 and the money raised will be paid over to the government in the form of so-called "special dividends".
It says the government made the order for the ESB to sell the assets on October 24.
That was just one day before the end of the latest "troika mission", the regular review of the Irish bailout by officials from the EU and IMF.
"The Government has now, in a request communicated to the ESB Board today (October 24, 2012), asked the ESB to develop proposals for the sale of some non-strategic generation capacity, with the specific objective of delivering special dividends to the Government targeted at up to €400m by the end of 2014," the investor update states.
It was known that the government planned to privatise parts of the ESB, but details of the scheme were not revealed until now.
The sale is part of a wider sale of state assets that has been ordered by the troika.
The ESB sparked controversy earlier this week when it reported a huge surge in profits just weeks after hiking prices for ordinary customers.
Privatisation plans for the ESB have been mooted since a review of state assets recommended that parts of the company should be sold off.
Now we know that some power stations will be sold, but the ESB itself will not be split into its various parts.
The ESB is to remain as a "financially strong state-owned Vertically Integrated Utility (VIU)", according to the note.
The ESB has 13 major power stations.
Plans for the sale of Bord Gais Energy, the retail and power generation parts of that state-owned company, are at an advanced stage.
Business, page 40