Belfast Telegraph

Sell-off plan for state-owned firms

A raft of state-owned companies face being broken up or sold off under radical plans to raise 5 billion euro and pull the country out of the red.

But the Government insists there will not be a fire sale of semi-states and that valuable energy, transport and industry interests will only be floated on the market when the time is right.

An independent review of state-run commerce recommends stripping ESB and Bord Gais of fuel burning power stations, selling ESB's foreign business, privatising Aer Lingus in full and selling off the National Stud.

Author and economist Colm McCarthy has also called for a pay review of top brass in the semi-state.

Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Sector Reform and Expenditure, said no decision on sales have been made and warned the Government would only go to market when conditions are right.

"I think there will be things that will not be acceptable to Government but I'll let the Government debate that and we will be presenting our comprehensive response in due course," he said.

The McCarthy review of state assets - the economist's second investigation into trimming public costs and raising finance - looked at companies which have a total book value of 8 billion euro.

Mr Howlin said if all the sales recommended in the review went through it could realise up to 5 billion euro.

But he warned against jumping into a so-called "fire sale", claiming it was a matter of timing to secure the right market conditions.

"It's not practical to think about disposing of many of these companies in a big hurry," he said.

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