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Explainer: Which State assets are being considered for sale?

The Government is considering the sale of several State assets in order to raise €5 billion to help reduce the country’s debt – we look at the most likely contenders.

Ireland as shot by NASA via Jim Corbett.
Ireland as shot by NASA via Jim Corbett.
Image: Irish Typepad via Creative Commons/Flickr

IN LIGHT OF the country’s economic crisis, the Government has been discussing the sale of State assets in order to collect revenue – but which assets might be up for grabs – and what is their worth?

In July 2010, the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan created the Review Group on State Assets and Liabilities, led by UCD economist Colm McCarthy, to advise it on the future of commercial semi-States.

The group’s report recommends the part-privatisation of ESB, RTÉ and CIÉ, and the possible full-privatisation of Dublin Bus and the Dublin Airport Authority, with a view to €5 billion being collected for the State in order to reduce its “very high level of indebtedness”.

Following this, the Government has identified several assets that it considers to be suitable for possible sale – here are the five most likely contenders:

Bord Gáis

Bord Gáis, which deals with natural gas supplies, is split into two parts: Bord Gáis Energy, which provides products and services (primarily gas and electricity supply) to customers, and Bord Gáis Networks, which develops, operates and maintains the natural gas networks in the country and transports gas on behalf of gas shippers and suppliers. It is the Energy section of the company that has been suggested for sale.

In 2009, the Bord Gáis group returned revenue of €1.349m.

Aer Lingus

The Government owns 25 per cent stake in Aer Lingus and has considered the possibility of putting this up for sale – however it is thought that this would probably raise just €100 million at present. The Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has indicated that, if the State’s stake in Aer Lingus was to be sold, the Government would seek a way of safeguarding the airline’s 23 valuable slot pairs at Heathrow Airport.

The Review Group cited the net asset value of €1,401,715 in 2009, while the company’s 2010 annual report cites revenue of €1,215.6 million.

Dublin Port

Dublin Port is Ireland’s largest sea port and is wholly-owned by the State. The port and its land has most recently been valued at €400 million. Dublin Port says it handles €35 billion per annum in trade going in and out of the port.

The Review Group cited the net asset value of Dublin Port to be €238,270 in 2009. It recommended that Ireland’s ports should be restructured before being considered for sale.

While the Government has earmarked Dublin Port for possible sale, it hopes to secure the best deal for the taxpayer and so says is not planning a so-called “fire sale”.


The State forestry agency, Coillte, is a commercial company operating in forestry, land-based businesses, renewable energy and panel products. It owns more than 445,000 hectares of land – about 7 per cent of the land cover of the country – and employs about 1,100 people.

In 2010, group turnover was €250.4m – an increase of €43.5m within a four year period. The Review Group cited the net asset value of Coillte at €1,207,484 in 2009.

In the case of land-based assets, the Review Group proposed that the state “sell the rights to reap the produce of the land but not the land itself.”


Once the sole supplier of energy in Ireland, the ESB now operates in a competitive marketplace and is composed of several different companies: ESB Networks, ESB Power Generation, ESB Electric Ireland, ESB International and Northern Ireland Electricity.

Last year, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said that the ESB would not be broken up and sold as separate parts but remain as a single entity from which a minority share would be put up for sale.

In 2008, the ESB employed almost 8,000 people and had a revenue of €3.5 billion. The Review Group cited the net asset value of the ESB to be €4,032,150 in 2009.

A list of State assets

  • Dublin Airport Authority (incl Cork and Shannon Airport)
  • CIÉ (Córas Iompair Éireann)
  • Dublin Bus
  • Irish Rail (Iarnród Éireann)
  • Bus Eireann
  • Irish Aviation Authority
  • Dublin Airport Authority
  • Dublin Port Company
  • Cork Port Company
  • Drogheda Port Company
  • Galway Port Company
  • Waterford Port Company
  • Shannon Foynes Port Company
  • Wicklow Port Company
  • New Ross Port Company
  • Dundalk Port Company
  • Dún Laoighaire Harbour Company
  • ESB
  • Bord Gáis Eireann
  • Bord Na Mona
  • Eirgrid
  • An Post
  • RTÉ
  • TG4
  • National Oil Reserves Agency
  • Coillte
  • Horse Racing Ireland
  • Irish National Stud Company Ltd
  • Bord Na gCon

Read: Government urged to protect Coillte amid more talk of State asset sell-off>

Column: Selling State assets risks damaging our future for short-term gain>

Read: No decision yet on selling ESB – Burton>

Column: Who are the winners when we sell State assets? Not the public…>

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