Belfast Telegraph

Sale of Firmus Energy will 'not impact' customers here

By Clare Weir

The Irish government's decision to sell Firmus Energy, which supplies gas to Northern Ireland, will have "no impact" on customers, the company has said.

On Wednesday it was announced that parts of the ESB and Bord Gáis would be put up for sale in a bid to raise €3bn (£2.45bn), €1bn (£845m) of which will be put towards job creation.

Bord Gáis Energy - which includes Firmus - and Bord Gáis's retail, trading and assets divisions will all be put on the market.

Bord Gáis also owns the gas transmission network to the ten towns outside Belfast that Firmus supplies, but the strategically important networks of both companies, which carry gas and electricity, are set to remain in Irish state control.

ESB owns the electricity network in Northern Ireland and a stake in Coolkeeragh power station.

A spokeswoman for Firmus Energy said that customers here would not be affected.

Firmus currently supplies gas to about 20,000 homes and businesses across Northern Ireland.

"The announcement has no impact on our customers and throughout this process, Firmus Energy will continue to provide a first-class service and an excellent offering to our customers throughout Northern Ireland," she said.

Speculation is now mounting as to who will join the queue of potential buyers.

Economist John Simpson said that the news was "no surprise" and added that rival firm Phoenix Natural Gas would be a likely bidder.

"At the moment Firmus own one part of the gas pipeline and Phoenix owns the other - it would make sense for it to be under one ownership," he said.

A spokesman for Phoenix Natural Gas told the Belfast Telegraph that the company was already on record as saying they maintained an interest "in the potential purchase of further energy assets across the island that would represent a natural fit and an expansion opportunity".

The Irish government's plan to raise the money is part of its agreement with its funders in Europe and the International Monetary Fund.

The Sinn Féin spokesperson on energy in the Republic, Martin Ferris TD, has slammed the decision to sell off part of Bord Gáis and has warned that "opportunistic private companies" will capitalise on the sale.

£2.45bn

The amount that the Irish Government is attempting to raise

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