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Howlin: Conditions are not right for selling our stake in Aer Lingus

Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin told an Oireachtas committee that “optimal conditions do not exist” for disposing of the government’s 25 per cent stake.

Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive/Press Association Images

THE GOVERNMENT IS now unlikely to sell-off its 25 per cent holding in Aer Lingus in the immediate future after Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said market conditions are not right at the moment.

Speaking to the Oireachtas Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform Committee last night, Howlin said that investigations into Ryanair’s 29.8 per cent shareholding in Aer Lingus and its attempts to takeover over its rival have complicated matters.

Under the memorandum of understanding with the Troika, the government agreed to sell-off a number of State assets to raise as much as €3 billion to pay down debt, but already the proposal to sell-off the state forestry agency Coillte has been shelved.

“At the present moment, however, it is the Government’s view that optimal conditions do not exist for a sale of the Government’s remaining shareholding just now,” Howlin said yesterday.

“Nevertheless, the Government remains open to considering opportunities to dispose of its shareholding and will, in the meantime, continue to manage the holding in a responsible manner in order to protect the State’s interests and with the aim of maximising its value.”

Despite shelving plans to sell-off Aer Lingus and Coillte, the government has committed to the formal sale process of Bord Gáis Energy which could raise as much as €1 billion.

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Half of all the money raised from the State asset sale is expected to pay down debt with the government claiming that the other half will be used for job creation measures.

Read: Cabinet abandons plan to sell off felling rights for public forests

For sale: State asset sell-off begins as Bord Gáis Energy invites bids

Read: Half of proceeds from State assets sale must pay down debt – Troika

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Hugh O'Connell

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