State companies still highly exposed to UK as Brexit looms

New report shows forestry service Coillte derives 41% of its revenues from Britain

Brexit remains a key concern for State-owned companies, with forestry service Coillte seen as being particularly vulnerable as it still derives just over 40 per cent of revenues from the UK, according to a report by State agency NewEra.

As the deadline for the UK's exit from the European Union grows ever closer, the report shows that a number of companies under State control remain heavily reliant on Britain for trade.

A quarter of the ESB’s turnover came from the region last year, as did 23 per cent of EirGrid’s, the electric power transmission operator.

In addition, the study shows that 29 per cent of the ESB’s fixed assets are in the UK, with its investments there funded with sterling debt of £1.7 billion, which will have to be repaid via earnings in the same currency.


The figures are contained in a report from NewEra, the agency that oversees State-controlled businesses on behalf of the Government. These include An Post, Bord na Móna, ESB and Irish Water, DAA, the Dublin Port Company and CIÉ.

NewEra, which operates under the umbrella of the National Treasury Management Agency, provides ongoing financial and commercial advice on 14 State and semi-State entities.


The report warns that Coillte is particularly exposed to the macroeconomic impact of Brexit, with a slowdown in construction activity in Britain likely to mean a deterioration in trading conditions. It does add, however, that the State body has undertaken significant restructuring and contingency planning over the past two years that should help it withstand challenges.

The report warns that, given the scale of activity of portfolio companies in the energy sector, the issue of supply and interconnections is also of huge importance. This is especially so as production at the Corrib gas field is projected to decline in the coming years.

It also raises concerns about State companies in the transportation space, noting for example that more than 80 per cent of British land-bridge traffic goes through Dublin Port. In aviation more than 50 per cent of passenger traffic out of all the airports outside Dublin is linked to Britain.

UK-related traffic accounted for 34 per cent of passenger numbers at Dublin Airport but 85 per cent at Knock.

Key role

According to NewEra, portfolio companies generated €1.3 billion in operating profits last year and paid €324 million in dividends to the exchequer. In addition, the combined companies, which employ 38,000 people, generated a return on invested capital of 5.5 per cent.

"The review highlights the key role played by State companies in the provision of critical infrastructure across Ireland," NewEra director Eileen Fitzpatrick said.

“On a collective basis, it is expected that these companies could account for some €28 billion of investment, primarily across the energy, water, airports and port sectors over the next 10 years. This investment comprises a significant part of the investment envisaged under the National Development Plan from 2018 to 2027,” she added.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist