Strong interest in Coillte wind assets

By Geoff Percival

State-owned forestry company Coillte has received “very significant interest” in its windfarm properties, which it effectively put up for sale last month, and is confident of achieving its stated price target of €125m for the assets.

A spokesperson for the company said it is “very confident” of realising its target sale price — which would be five times what Coillte originally invested in the portfolio — as a mix of domestic and overseas parties have expressed interest.

Coillte is looking to sell its stake in each of its four operating joint-venture wind farms — at Castlepook in Cork; Raheenleagh in Wexford; Cloosh Bay in Galway and Sliabh Bawn in Roscommon.

It co-owns the farms with the ESB, SSE and Bord na Móna; and owns a 50% stake in all but Sliabh Bawn, where it controls 25%.

The sale does not spell the end of Coillte’s renewable energy plans. It still owns 25 wind farm sites, which it intends to start developing later this year with fresh investment and new partners. Its ultimate plan is to sell on its stakes in those future wind farms once they become operational.

Coillte yesterday reported a 6% increase in earnings to €85.2m for 2017, excluding the cost of large land transactions. The company also generated record revenues, for last year, of €298.7m, up by nearly 4% on the previous year.

A fifth year of dividend growth was also recorded; Coillte paying the State €8m, nearly 30% more than 2016.

Coillte said its core forestry division has continued to make “stong progress” towards being “the best forestry business in Europe” and it sees 2018 as being “a crucial year” with a step change in earnings expected, following a phase of restructuring and investment.

The company saw a strong first quarter to 2018, with earnings — on an EBITDA basis — ahead by around 50% year-on-year. “Despite the uncertain backdrop of Brexit we are well-positioned for strong growth in all of our key financial metrics,” said CEO Fergal Leamy.

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