Unionist leaders object to ESB’s Northern Ireland Electricity takeover

UNIONIST leaders in the North have formally objected to the ESB’s planned takeover of Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE); a deal which was initially announced back in July.

Back then, the ESB announced that it had reached “conditional agreement” with the Arcapita-owned Viridian Group to purchase its Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) subsidiary for just over £1 million (€1.25m).

ESB chief executive Padraig McManus said at the time that the deal “demonstrates ESB’s continued ambition to grow our business in the rapidly changing energy sector on this island”, adding that NIE is a “well-run, efficient business that will continue to operate on that basis”, while the ESB is “fully committed” to delivering significant investment in the North.

Virdian group chairman, Patrick Haren, said that the transaction “represents an important milestone in the development of the Viridian Group”.

Yesterday, however, the DUP leader – and Northern Ireland’s First Minister – Peter Robinson; along with Ulster Unionist party leader Reg Empey, wrote to the Taoiseach, protesting over the proposed deal; saying that it amounted to the purchase of “a key component of our national infrastructure”.

A spokesperson for the ESB – which is still carrying out due diligence work on NIE – declined to comment on the situation yesterday, beyond confirming that the company was aware of the letter of opposition lodged with the Government.

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