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Irish report Irish report
by Euro Reporter
2012-02-23 07:41:06
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Ireland raises asset sales target to 3 bln Euros

The Irish government raised its target for the sale of state assets to 3 billion Euros ($4 billion) on Wednesday, unveiling a final list of utilities set to go on the block headed by the energy business of its Bord Gais utility. The government had previously said it was looking to raise 2 billion Euros but had indicated it may exceed that after winning approval from its EU/IMF creditors to use some of the proceeds to invest in the economy as well as pay down debt.

It said on Wednesday that it will meet most of its new target by selling part of Bord Gais, while the previously announced sale of a minority stake in the state's most valuable asset, the Irish Electricity Supply Board (ESB), is off the table. Doubts remain over when the government might sell its stake in Aer Lingus, with plans on hold pending more favourable market conditions, and analysts cautioned that the government's overall target may not be achievable. "It sounds ambitious," said Eoin Reeves, senior lecturer in privatisation at the University of Limerick, noting that a state-sponsored report valued Bord Gais's regulatory asset base at 3 billion Euros and that, according to the Commission For Energy Regulation, 90 percent of profits come from its networks.

"That would raise the question over whether Bord Gais can really contribute that much to the 3 billion targets. The big news is that there is very little news in this." Such a scenario could put the brakes on Dublin's plans to reinvest some of the proceeds after it said that although it can plough one third of the amount raised back into the economy, it can only do so after 1 billion Euros worth of assets are sold. If it does hit its target the 2 billion Euros set aside to pay down debt will be only a small fraction of the 204 million Euros total which Dublin expects the national debt to amount to by 2015, a quadrupling since 2007.


Enda Kenny’s US charm offensive continues

Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s trade-focused charm offensive on the US continued last week, as he attended a series of events over three days in both Boston and New York aimed at “reasserting Ireland’s place in the world,” as he put it when he visited the JFK School of Government at Harvard University on Thursday evening. The latest trip came hot on the heels of his visit to New York just the week before, where he addressed a major investment conference hosted by former president Bill Clinton. This time around he returned to New York before travelling to Boston for his first visit to the city as Taoiseach.
Arriving in Manhattan Wednesday Mr. Kenny spoke to press at New York City Hall and held briefings with Bank Mellon representatives and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The visit also included a trip to New Jersey’s Merck Sharp and Dohme pharmaceutical plant, and the launch of Tourism Ireland’s “Jump into Ireland” campaign at the New York Athletic Club. His mile-a-minute Boston schedule took in the launch of Irish security company Netwatch’s US division; the aforementioned keynote speech at Harvard on the theme of the Irish economy; an Irish Network Boston reception; a dinner with key American Ireland Fund supporters at the Four Seasons Hotel; a business breakfast Friday hosted by the Irish American Partnership; a lunch at the JFK Presidential Library hosted by Enterprise Ireland; and a meeting with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick at the State House.
Speaking at Harvard, Mr. Kenny dipped liberally into the history books to emphasize what he feels is Ireland’s rightful place at the heart of a strong Europe, asking the audience to remember “the sixth-century Irish monks who brought a semi-Barbarian Europe out of the Dark Ages,” during a time when “Ireland colonized the souls of Europe.”


Ireland's native animals under threat

The Irish hare is one of a number of native species facing extinction if action is not taken to control the invasion of foreign mammals in Ireland, new research has found. Also in danger of going the same way as the dodo are the red squirrel and red deer, because of the impact non-native animals are having on the ecosystem, according to academics from Belfast's Queen's University.

The warnings follow a two-year study on two introduced species now thriving in Ireland - the bank vole and the greater white toothed shrew. Researchers found that the native pygmy shrew has completely vanished in the parts of the island where these foreign species are found, while wood mouse numbers have dropped by 50% in places where the bank vole is fully established.

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