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Why sell just one part of power giant?

WITH the Government set to flog off its remaining 25pc Aer Lingus shareholding for less than a third of the price it could have got five years ago, it now looks as if they are determined to repeat the mistake on much larger scale at the ESB.

With the Government committed to raising at least €2bn from the sale of State assets under the terms of the EU/IMF bailout, it was always inevitable that the ESB, by far the most valuable State-owned asset, would end up on the block.

While estimates vary, most analysts say that an ESB privatisation could raise at least €5bn with some of them estimating €6bn-€8bn. Even in the context of our huge debts that's still serious money.

Not, it seems, if Pat Rabbitte has his way. Not only is he selling only a minority stake in the ESB, he is also excluding the most valuable part of the business, electricity transmission, from the sale.

What investors are being offered is a minority stake in its less attractive electricity generation and distribution businesses.

That ensures that, in return for keeping the powerful ESB unions happy, the exchequer will receive far less from the privatisation than would have happened if the Government had a more hard-nosed approach.