| 13.5°C Belfast

Controversial £1bn NIE sale is almost completed

The Electricity Supply Board (ESB) will complete its purchase of Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) in a matter of days, it has emerged.

The Irish state-owned electricity company said it is still on track to finalise the controversial £1bn deal by the end of the year.

The statement said: “ESB confirms that the NIE acquisition transaction remains on track and that work is progressing to conclude the transaction by year end.”

The sale has faced a number of setbacks this year, including financial complications within NIE’s parent company Viridian and opposition from Unionist politicians.

ESB announced in July it would be buying NIE for £1bn. But Viridian’s debts stand at £1.8bn, so agreement had to be reached between the company and its creditors before a deal could be done.

The deal has proven controversial, with a split appearing in the DUP as Peter Robinson opposed the sale but minister for trade Arlene Foster giving her approval.

The DUP and UUP sent a joint letter to Taoiseach Brian Cowen saying they disapproved of ESB’s move into Northern Ireland.

Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott reiterated this sentiment last month. He said that since ESB was owned by the government, it would be “absolutely outrageous if any of this money were to be used to assist the ESB take over of NIE”.

Belfast Telegraph