‘Back on track’ Ireland to get cheap project loans

Soft loans for schools and renewable energy projects to be confirmed by Government and European Investment Bank

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar and European Investment Bank president Werner Hoyer at the controls of a Luas tram at St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, yesterday, following discussions on future investment in the Luas network. Photograph: Eric Luke

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar and European Investment Bank president Werner Hoyer at the controls of a Luas tram at St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, yesterday, following discussions on future investment in the Luas network. Photograph: Eric Luke

Tue, Apr 30, 2013, 05:00

Ireland’s success at getting “back on track” will be marked this morning by an announcement from the Government and European Investment Bank (EIB) of a number of “soft” loans for infrastructure projects.

Speaking at a press conference in Dublin yesterday, investment bank president Werner Hoyer said the projects would include schools and renewable energy developments.

He also said the bank was analysing other projects because “the success story which Ireland seems to be” was an example to other EU states which were in difficulty.

Mr Hoyer confirmed the bank was “examining” soft or cheaper loans for the Gort to Tuam N17/18 motorway, was “discussing” finance for road schemes in Enniscorthy and New Ross, and was “interested” in providing funding for the Luas city centre link-up.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said in addition to the “stimulus” roads projects there had been “initial discussions between the EIB and Shannon Airport and also some investments in port investments as well”.


‘Financial close’
One project which is “close to financial close” was the provision of funding for the Newlands Cross/N11 PPP road scheme, which “would be the first time that a transport PPP [public private partnership] has reached financial close for six years since 2007”.

Mr Hoyer said the project was not only “good in substance” but was “good in symbolism because it is a vivid expression of the fact that Ireland is back on track”.

The bank typically offered loans to projects between one and two percentage points below the market rate, he said.

Mr Hoyer also said in the context of what was happening elsewhere in other parts of Europe, the bank was “interested of course in being part of the success story which Ireland seems to be in the current economic crisis of Europe”.

A return by Ireland to the capital markets was in sight and the bank found the Irish experience “very encouraging”.


‘Exciting project’
Mr Hoyer said the bank was “very open” towards assisting the linking of the two Luas lines in Dublin, “and expect to progress rapidly on this exciting project”.

Mr Varadkar said funding for the project would be provided whatever the outcome of the EIB analysis but the availability of such finance would make the project cheaper. The Government was anxious to get back to road and rail building but the key was to advance the projects as public private partnerships.