ESB retail network sell-off draws to a close

THE ESB’s €137 million sell-off of its Irish retail network and its British electrical construction business is likely to be the end of the State utility’s disposal of non-core assets at this time.

Yesterday, the ESB announced the sale of ESBI Engineering (UK) to Enterprise plc for €17m. On March 16 the ESB board approved the sale to Bank of Scotland (Ireland) Limited (BOSI), of its retail outlets for approximately €120m.

Company insiders say, while the company has a number of other non-core businesses on its books, the latest two sales will be the last in the current phase of disposals. Core ESB activity is defined as electricity generation, distribution and supply. The company is out-sourcing close to 50% of the €3.5bn of its current network re-generation programme, with the 90 ESBI Engineering (UK) workers based in Ireland engaged in some of this work. ESB International, with over 1,500 staff in the construction of generation capacity is considered too close to the core business at this time to be earmarked for disposal.

Other non-core businesses like ESB Telecoms which built and owns a 1,300 kilometre National Fibre Optic Network (NTFON) comprised of 48-core fibre wrapped around the ESB High Voltage Network are not expected to be sold. ESB Telecoms, trading as ESB TowerCo, also owns and manages over 300 telecommunications towers and sites, on which all major Irish telecommunications companies have substantial installations. The difficulties disentangling these sites which also house ESB installations is considered too unwieldy to consider selling them off.

ESBI Computing is part of ESB’s Commercial Enterprises and is separate from the regulated electricity business of the ESB group. It too is not in line for disposal at this time.

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