Government to sell part of ESB


The Government is to sell a minority stake in ESB, Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte has announced.

He told the Dáil, which returned today after the summer recess, that the Cabinet made the decision this morning to sell a stake in the ESB, as part of its obligations under the EU-IMF memorandum of understanding.

In the wake of speculation in the past number of weeks about the potential sale of a share of the State power company, Mr Rabbitte confirmed the sale but said no decision had been taken about the size of the stake or its potential value.

During questions, Mr Rabbitte said the decision had been made to sell a minority stake “as an integrated utility”.

He said there would be a “defined process involving a full evaluation of the best approach to be taken, including the size of the minority stake to be sold”.

A review group co-chaired by Mr Rabbitte’s department and that of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform will make a recommendation by the end of November about the proposed share for sale and potential value.

The review group will include officials from the department of finance and will also avail of the expertise of the National Treasury Management Agency.

"This decision is an early demonstration of the commitment by the Government to the programme for government objectives and to its obligations under the EU-IMF memorandum of understanding,” said Mr Rabbitte. “This sale will be advanced by means of a defined process involving a full evaluation of the best approach to be taken including consideration of the size of the minority stake to be sold."

Sinn Féin spokesman Martin Ferris said his party was totally opposed to any sale of State assets. He said the decision made today was a “retrograde step and is going to be a disaster in the long-term”. He claimed it would result in job losses at the ESB and contribute to “more unemployment”.

Mr Rabbitte said there was an “injunction from the troika that we must come up with the disposal of some State assets”.

He added: “I find myself in a position I don’t want to be in but I acknowledge that the survival of the viability of this economy is at risk and that we have to make moves to ensure economic recovery and get people back to work”.

ESB said the issue was a matter for the Government. “Regarding the Government’s decision to sell a minority stake in ESB, this decision is a matter for Government and ESB will be engaging as appropriate with relevant parties,” a spokesman said.

The Unite trade union said it plans to ballot its members at ESB for industrial action up to and including withdrawal of labour over the proposed sale of the company.

After the shortest recess for a number of years, Government sources are predicting that a record number of Bills will be passed between now and Christmas, with longer Dáil hours and more sitting days.

An immediate priority will be legislation to give effect to the European Council agreement of July 21st which is designed to create a bigger bailout fund to deal with potential problems in Spain and Italy. Decisions affecting Ireland’s own EU-IMF programme will also feature largely in the coming Dáil session.

Legislation designed to create more competition in the legal and medical professions is due to be debated before the end of the month in line with the commitments given in the programme.