Coillte poised to invest up to €1bn over next 15 years

State forestry company confirms chief executive to leave for job in private sector

Fergal Leamy is stepping down as Coillte chief executive in June.

Fergal Leamy is stepping down as Coillte chief executive in June.

 

State forestry company Coillte could invest between €500 million and €1 billion over the next 10 to 15 years, according to its departing chief executive, Fergal Leamy.

Coillte confirmed yesterday that Mr Leamy has told the board he intends stepping down to take a private-sector job in June.

Speaking after the announcement, Mr Leamy said Coillte was well positioned to cash in on opportunities set to arise over the next decade or so.

“It can be a real engine of growth for the State over the next 10 to 15 years because it’s playing in on-trend sectors – timber and renewable energy,” he explained.

He predicted the company could invest between €500 million and €1 billion over that period. Much of that would be focused on expanding its Medite Smartply plants in counties Waterford and Tipperary and on developing new wind farms with a partner. He noted that both activities required large amounts of cash.

Debt

Coillte has cleared the €250 million it owed when when Mr Leamy took the helm four years ago and is more or less debt-free. Last year, its earnings before interest, tax and write-offs, a measure of cash flow, grew to €115 million from €85 million in 2017.

The company also sold shares in a number of wind farms in the Republic for €136 million, a fivefold return on its investment.

Coillte will begin searching for a new chief executive in the coming weeks. Gerry Britchfield, chief operations and financial officer, will become acting chief executive from April. Mr Leamy will stay until June to ensure a smooth transition.

State company chief executives normally sign up for five years. Mr Leamy explained yesterday that a new opportunity had come along that required him to leave about six months early.