Coillte see’s profits soar as demand from UK picks up

Pre-tax profits at state-owned Coillte have more than doubled to last year, bolstered by a pick-up in demand from the construction sector.

The increase from €16.3m to €27.8 comes as the semi-state forestry firm indicated that turnover also increased by €13.6m, to €275.7m, for 2013, in its annual report.

Export sales accounted for 59pc of the turnover, with 64pc of that going to the UK market.

Coillte said a €2m dividend was paid to the Government, its sole shareholder, in January. It is equal to the amount paid over the previous year.

Gerry Britchfield, acting chief executive, also backed the Cabinet’s plans to partially merge Coillte and Bord na Mona in specific areas of overlap in wind energy, biomass supply, shared services and green tourism.

“Over the past two years Coillte has worked constructively with Government to determine how best to capture the significant future opportunities for growth available to the company and optimise its performance and contribution to the State,” he said. “We believe that the Government decision this week represents a practical approach to delivering additional value for the state as shareholder.”

Figures show Coillte supplied 2.4 million logs last year, recording a 3pc rise in the volume sold to Irish sawmills and a 5pc jump in sales of panel products.

The increased demand for logs reflected greater demand for sawn timber in the UK market, it revealed in its annual report, while panel products were sold in Ireland and continental Europe.

Mr Britchfield said 2013 proved to be a year of two halves for the industry, which supports around 12,000 jobs across rural Ireland.

“The first half of the year was extremely challenging with the UK market exiting slowly from recession, however, there was a significant improvement in the second half of the year,” he said.

Operating profit before exceptional items was €41.3m – up from €35m – and €41.2m was spent on investments, with over 80pc spent enhancing and maintaining the forest estate.

Coillte, which manages Ireland’s network of trails, forest parks and recreation sites, said it will continue to expand in the renewable energy sector.

It secured planning permission for a 33 MW wind farm in Cork last year, with plans at an advanced stage for three other wind farm projects, which will have a combined capacity of 200MW. Source: Irish Independent