Commercial semi-state firms pay out €2.4bn in dividends since 2010

Commercial semi-state firms have paid out €2.4bn in dividends to the Exchequer since 2010.

According to new figures provided by the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, commercial semi-state firms last year paid out dividends of €261.19m to the State.

The €261.19m dividend pay-out last year by nine commercial semi-states is 19% down on the €323.74m paid out by 10 commercial semi-state firms in 2017.

The biggest contributor last year was the operator of Irish Water and Bord Gáis, Ervia, which paid out a dividend of €139m - though the payout by Ervia last year was down on the €148m it paid to Government in 2017.

In a written Dáil reply to Fianna Fáil Finance spokesman, Michael McGrath TD, Minister Donohoe confirmed that the next largest dividend last year was made by the daa, totalling €37.4m.

The 31.5m record passenger numbers at Dublin airport allowed the Dublin and Cork airport operator to increase its dividend by 28.5% from the €29.1m paid into the exchequer in 2017.

The only other commercial semi-state to pay over €30m to the State last year was the ESB, who paid out €33m.

The €33m was significantly down on dividends paid out by the ESB in prior years - in 2017, the ESB paid out €109.9m and this followed dividend pay-outs of €82.16m in 2016, €258.7m in 2015, €269.1m in 2014, and €139.46m in 2013.

Over the 2010 to 2018 period, the ESB has been the largest contributor of dividends from commercial semi-states to the exchequer handing over €1.12bn.

Ervia has been the second largest contributor paying out €744m in dividends between 2014 and 2018.

A number of other semi-state firms significantly increased their dividend payout last year.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) last year paid out €19.45m in dividends - more than double the €9.24m paid out in 2017.

The board of Coillte also sharply increased their payout, up to €15m compared to €8m in 2017.

More modest increases in dividends were recorded at the Dublin Port Company, which paid out €12.17m in 2018 compared to €11.7m in 2017, and the Port of Cork company, which paid out €714,000 compared to €693,091 in 2017.

Shannon Foynes Port company increased its dividend by 20% from €250,000 in 2017 to €300,000 last year.

The dividend payout last year by Eirgrid remained static with 2017 levels at €4m.

Bord na Móna made no dividend payout last year after paying out €2.3m in 2017 and €3.7m in 2016.

The dividend payouts by commercial semi-states during the nine-year period reached a peak in 2014 when €470.6m was paid out driven mainly that year by dividends of €269m from the ESB and €171m from Ervia.

Deputy McGrath said that while dividend payments have been an important source of revenue for the government in recent years, “it should be recognised these dividends are ultimately being paid by the end consumers buying goods and services from these companies”.

He argued that “consumers are better served in the end by lower prices rather than massive dividend payments going back to the central exchequer”.

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