State Assets:Approach to Coillte requires strategic analysis

Sunday, 11th March 2012

Full analysis of State assets needs to take place ahead of any sale

Fine Gael TD for Wicklow and East Carlow, Andrew Doyle, has called for the State to take a strategic and detailed look at our asset base before proceeding with any sale. Deputy Doyle also warned of the risk of selling Coillte’s board mills to its competitors. Speaking in this week’s Dail debate on the sale of State assets, he said:

“I am fully supportive of the Government’s plan to generate up to €3 billion through the sale of non-strategic State assets and to invest €1 billion of that figure in job creation measures. If any business was in the same position as Ireland, it would look at its assets strategically. We need to take a strategic and detailed look at our asset base which will inform how we approach the sale of these assets.

“Coillte is an interesting case in point and its potential sale is more complicated than that of other State assets such as Aer Lingus and Bord Gáis Energy. Mr. Colm McCarthy in his an bord snip report said the sale of the land should not be considered, which was welcome.

“I would urge caution in how we progress the sale of this resource, in particular its board mills. If we were to sell board mills, I am very concerned that they could be bought by a competitor in the United Kingdom purely to close them down. Jobs would be lost as a result. We have to be mindful of that. If we are not careful about how we auction the licences to fell, there is a risk that the raw materials could be diverted from the board mills.

“I live in the heart of the Wicklow uplands, and have been talking to people in Coillte. I understand they are on the verge of the type of product innovation that will help them to attract investment from other countries and from outside investors.

It could be the case that we do not sell it, but instead attract strategic investment partners, grow the business and by so doing, bring in as much money as if some of Coillte was sold or auctioned. The New Zealand Crown Forestry licensing system is a good example – where the state retains complete ownership and control, and it even controls the way the licences are auctioned.

Coillte will be coming before the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Natural Resources and Agriculture of which I am Chair and I hope that we will be able to have a measured and detailed analysis on Coillte so as to be able to ascertain its potential.