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Irish gov't to sell 3 bln euros of state assets

(Xinhua)

08:58, February 23, 2012

DUBLIN, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- The Irish government announced on Wednesday the sale of state assets worth up to 3 billion euros (4.0 billion U.S. dollars) as part of its bailout agreement with the "troika" of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The sale of Bord Gais Eireann's gas energy business will form the main part of the 3 billion euros, but its gas transmission and distribution systems and the two gas interconnectors will remain in state ownership.

The government will also sell some of the Electricity Supply Board's (ESB) non-strategic power generation capacity.

It was also announced that the government's previous plan to sell a substantial part of the ESB will not go ahead, as had previously been signaled.

Consideration will be given to the sale of some assets of Ireland's forestry body Coillte, though not the sale of land.

Ireland will also be selling its remaining 25-percent shareholding in airline Aer Lingus. However, the government will only consider this when market conditions are favorable and the share prices rise to an acceptable level.

Irish Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said that following intense engagement, the troika agreed that 1/3 of the proceeds could be used for reinvestment in the Irish economy.

"This is a substantial change to the troika's previous position and will help promote recovery in the economy," said Howlin.

The government said there will be no fire sales and added that important transmission and distribution infrastructure will remain in state ownership.

In parliament on Wednesday, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said he does not envisage that the sale of state assets will happen this year, but the process could begin in 2013.

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