Dáil Éireann - Volume 536 - 10 May, 2001
Written Answers - State Companies.
Mr. Durkan Mr. Durkan
21. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Enterprise the position in relation to the flotation of Aer Lingus and other State or semi-State bodies; if ongoing discussions or negotiations are taking place in this regard with Government or  other agencies; if any decisions have been taken in regard to the long-term plans for such companies and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13273/01]
Mr. Durkan Mr. Durkan
73. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Enterprise the strategic alliance or other proposals mooted in respect of An Post or other State or semi-State industries and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13460/01]
Mr. Durkan Mr. Durkan
80. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Enterprise the position in relation to the Aer Lingus flotation; if similar proposals are in hand or are being considered in respect of any other State of semi-State agency; the extent to which such proposals have progressed to date and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13468/01]
Mrs. O'Rourke Mrs. O'Rourke
Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke): I propose to take Questions Nos. 21, 73 and 80 together.
I have said on many occasions that questions about the future ownership of commercial State companies fall to be determined on a case by case basis, in the context of developments in their main business areas. The following is the position in relation to the commercial State companies, under my aegis.
I have already answered separate questions on the privatisation of Aer Lingus today and I refer the Deputy to my replies to Questions Nos. 11, 36, 37, 39 and 65 in the matter.
In regard to the CIE group of companies, the consultation paper entitled A New Institutional and Regulatory Framework for Public Transport, was published by the Government in September 2000. It sets out a number of proposals on the restructuring of the CIE companies including the possible privatisation of the bus companies. These proposals are currently the subject of consultation with the public transport partnership forum which was established under the terms of the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness.
No Government decision has been taken in respect of the recommendation of the board of Aer Rianta that there be an IPO of a minority shareholding in that company.
There are no plans to privatize the IAA, which was incorporated as a commercial State company in 1994 and is the safety regulator and provider of air navigation services in Irish controlled airspace.
Under the terms of the Government's decision of 23 February 1999, the Irish National Petroleum Corporation initiated an extensive search process to identify business development opportunities to underpin the operation of the Whitegate refinery. Four definite proposals were submitted to the INPC, whose board recommended the submission received from the Tosco Corporation to acquire the refinery and the Whiddy Oil terminal. The proposal involves a commitment to operate the facilities in question for a minimum of 15 years. The consultants who are advising me on  the proposed deal subsequently endorsed that recommendation.
As I announced on 31 July 2000, I authorised INPC to enter into a period of exclusive negotiations with the Tosco Corporation for the sale of the refinery, the oil terminal and the INPC business. The National Oil Reserves Agency is not included in the terms of the sales. This announcement followed an extensive search for potential partners, submission of expressions of interest and receipt of firm proposals, which were rigorously reviewed before shortlisting and final selection. INPC and Tosco have had detailed negotiations since then. I have just received a recommendation from the INPC board in favour of concluding a transaction, which I am considering. My Department and the Department of Finance, with the aid of legal and economic consultants, have been directly involved in the negotiations in respect of shareholder issues. Assuming that I decide to put this matter forward for Government approval, the transaction could not be completed without primary legislation, which in turn will influence the timeframe. There are other issues also to be resolved, not least in relation to the employees.
There are currently no plans with regard to the flotation-privatisation of the ESB. I wrote to the chairman of the ESB and invited the board to let me have its views on the future direction of the ESB, including such issues as alliances, strategic partnerships, structure and ownership. I also encouraged the board and the ESB group of unions to discuss this matter together. The board concluded in January 2001, having taken full account of the submissions from the ESB management and unions, that the essential conditions for a successful change of ownership do not prevail at this time. Therefore, the board decided that it would be inappropriate to proceed with a change of ownership recommendation at this stage. The board also decided to urgently pursue with the ESB group of unions, in a spirit of partnership, the development of a comprehensive strategy for the future development and growth of the ESB. I welcome the efforts taken to date by the board, the management and unions in relation to this important issue. I respect the conclusion arrived at by the board. I am confident that all parties will work together in a spirit of openness and partnership to develop this partnership strategy.
There are currently no plans with regard to a privatisation of Bord na Móna.
There is no current timetable to privatise Bord Gáis Éireann. Prudent policy dictates that we proceed on a step-by-step basis, the first step being completion of draft legislation to establish BGE as a public limited company, which is currently being prepared.
Last year I authorised An Post to examine options regarding a possible strategic alliance with one of the major European operators. The necessity to do this arises from competitive pressures both from the liberalisation of the market  and the consolidation which is taking place in the European postal industry, driven by four main players, the post offices of Germany, Holland, Britain and France. While I am kept informed of developments, the investigation by An Post into the alliance possibilities is an ongoing process. I understand there are indications of interest but it is too early yet to judge the eventual outcome. I expect An Post to report to me on this matter later this year. However, privatisation is not currently envisaged or planned for An Post.
Dáil Éireann 536 Written Answers State Companies.