Power plants sale to help pay €400m dividend scrapped by ESB

Company to borrow remaining €203m due to Government

John McSweeney, ESB’s head of innovation, is to retire later this year. He will depart about the same time as deputy chief executive Bríd Horan, whose departure was announced last week.

John McSweeney, ESB’s head of innovation, is to retire later this year. He will depart about the same time as deputy chief executive Bríd Horan, whose departure was announced last week.

Tue, Jul 29, 2014, 01:00

Senior management at ESB held a series of discussions with its trade unions in recent months at which they were told workers strongly opposed the proposed sale of two peat-fired power plants, which the company has announced are being withdrawn from sale.

ESB said its board yesterday decided to reverse an earlier decision to sell the two peat plants at Shannonbridge in Offaly and Lanesborough in Longford, originally announced in October as part of an asset disposal programme to raise €400 million to pay a dividend to the State.

Instead of selling the plants, ESB has decided it will now borrow the remaining €203 million to pay the dividend, having already paid €197 million from the recent sale of its 50 per cent stakes in the Marchwood power plant in England and Bizkaia Energy in Spain.

Fran O’Neill, the acting secretary of the ESB Group of Unions (GoU) , said he “strongly welcomed” the decision not to proceed with the mooted sale plan.

When the original decision to offload the plants was announced 10 months ago, the GoU stated its opposition: “If the ESB is going to raise the €400 million by selling power stations, we’ll have something to say about that.”

The union was reported to have said feelings were “running high” among staff at the plants over the issue.

ESB said the decision not to sell makes financial sense: “[The decision] maximises the value of the peat assets for both ESB and the Government and results in stronger financial metrics for the company than selling the assets.”

It believes the future cashflow from the plants, which are supported by the public service obligation levy on all energy bills, will be higher than what it could raise selling the assets to a rival.

Meanwhile, The Irish Times has learned that John McSweeney, ESB’s head of innovation, is to retire later this year. He will depart about the same time as deputy chief executive Bríd Horan, whose departure was announced last week.