Varadkar pours cold water on proposal to merge port company with airport

Mike Dwane

Reporter:

Mike Dwane

SHANNON Foynes Port Company “is going very well” and should be in a position to pay a dividend to the state for the first time in 2014, the Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has said at Limerick Chamber.

SHANNON Foynes Port Company “is going very well” and should be in a position to pay a dividend to the state for the first time in 2014, the Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has said at Limerick Chamber.

But the minister poured cold water on calls to merge the port company with Shannon Airport.

Shannon Foynes - which manages Limerick and Foynes Ports - recorded a record operating profit of €2.5 million in 2010 while the airport lost in the region of €8 million last year.

“I know some people are suggesting that Shannon Foynes should be combined with the airport into a conglomerate,” Minister Varadkar said in a speech to the business community at the Radisson Hotel.

“I really don’t share that view - at least not yet because the port is a success and I’m a great believer in the ‘not broke, don’t fix’ philosophy when it comes to these things.”

“Shannon Foynes,” he said, “is going very well.”

“We have a new chairman in the shape of Michael Collins, who used to be CEO of Aughinish, and an excellent executive team. It is now the third largest port in the state and while it doesn’t pay a dividend yet, they do assure me that a dividend will be paid for the first time in 2014. The Port of Cork paid a dividend for the first time this year and Dublin Port has been paying a dividend for a number of years.”

It should not be forgotten, said the minister, that the role of semi-state companies was not only to provide public infrastructure “but also to record a profit and return a dividend to the state”.

That should happen in respect of the Shannon Foynes “within the next two to three years”.

The minister also welcomed the fact the Foynes had in the past year started to capture more of the market in international cruise ship tourism.