Could a private company be about to purchase a major shareholding in the state owned Telecom Éireann?

According to a report in the London newspaper 'The Observer' the British company Cable and Wireless is negotiating the purchase of a significant shareholding in the Irish state-owned telecommunications company, Telecom Éireann.

Spokespeople for both Telecom Éireann and Cable and Wireless said discussions had taken place regarding a possible strategic alliance or joint venture.

Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications Brian Cowen said alliances or joint ventures were the way to go for Telecom Éireann but inisted that privatisation was not on the agenda.

There is no question of any 25 percent offer being on the table.

He said the issue of buying into the state company had not arisen in what were preliminary discussions of a technical and operational nature between Telecom Éireann and Cable and Wireless.

Cable and Wireless is just one of many companies Telecom Éireann have been speaking to see how the future strategic nature of the company can be maintained so to ensure Ireland has a strong communications industry.

Táiniste Dick Spring had no issue with discussion about joint ventures and sharing of technology taking place. However he ruled out any joint ventures which included the loss of ownership of all or some of Telecom Éireann, as this would represent a breach in the programme for government.

He felt the government would be failing in its duty to be seen to be trying to make some easy money by selling off part of such a strategic asset.

But the question of the shares of Telecom are going to remain in the hands of the Irish people, because the Irish people have paid for the developments of the services and we’re not involved in the selling off of these shares.

He added

There is not going to be any further sale of state assets during the lifetime of this government.

Telecom Éireann executives are to come before Oireachtas committee on semi state companies for questioning about the latest developments.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 24 May 1993. The reporter is Michael Ronayne.