From top: Former Environment Minister Phil Hogan and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan; Former IBRC chairman Alan Dukes; Denis O’Brien; a water meter; Siteserv logo.
On March 15, 2012, Denis O’Brien – through his Isle of Man-based acquisition vehicle, Millington – bought Siteserv for €45.4million cash from the IBRC, formerly known as Anglo Irish Bank.
Law firm Arthur Cox represented both IBRC and Millington during the sale.
The sale involved IBRC agreeing to writing off €100million of Siteserv’s €150million debt.
Mr O’Brien acquired the business on a debt-free basis.
In addition, just under €5million was distributed to Siteserv’s shareholders, with them believed to have received €3.92 for every share they owned.
Soon after the sale, it was reported that some other bidders for Siteserv were unhappy with the deal.
It was reported that Australian hedge fund Anchorage Capital offered a higher price – €52million – but that ‘elements of the offer were considered less attractive then the O’Brien bid’.
It was also reported that French company Altrad claimed it was denied the opportunity to make an offer for Siteserv – saying it had been prepared to offer €60million for the firm but that it was ‘effectively denied the opportunity because its representative was told the Irish group was not for sale’.
Ray Neilson, a senior manager with Altrad, told the Irish Times he had emailed then Siteserv CEO Brian Harvey four times between 2011 and shortly before the deal was agreed with Mr O’Brien but that he was told the firm was not for sale. These claims were rejected by Siteserv.
In July 2013, GMC Sierra won a State contract to install water meters in Dublin city, the Midlands, Wicklow, Kildare, Offaly, Laois, Mayo, Roscommon, Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim.
GMC Sierra is comprised of GMC Utilities Group and Sierra Support Services Group. Sierra is a subsidiary of Siteserv.
Last December, Independent TD for Kildare North, Catherine Murphy raised her concerns about GMC Sierra’s water meter contract, in the Dáil, asking how could GMC Sierra be awarded a contract [by former Environment Minister Phil Hogan] for water meters even though it didn’t legally come into existence until July 15, 2013, 15 days after the closing date for bids.
She also asked Finance Minister Michael Noonan if he was satisfied that the IBRC acted in the best interests of the State when it sold Siteserv to Denis O’Brien/Millington.
In his reply, Mr Noonan stated that the IBRC acted “at an arm’s length to the State” and that “commercial decisions in relation to IBRC were solely a decision for the bank.”
Further to this…
Ms Murphy has been doing some more digging – in particular, on the matter of the sale of Siteserv to Mr O’Brien/Millington.
In a parliamentary question, Ms Murphy asked Minister Noonan to furnish her with the so-called Relationship Framework and Operational Protocol which oversaw the interactions between the Finance Minister and the former management and board [headed by Alan Dukes, former Fine Gael leader] of IBRC before it was liquidated.
Ms Murphy asked Mr Noonan to indicate to her the precise financial thresholds under the framework which would have “triggered mandatory consultation in advance of a transaction and/or disposal”.
In a reply on February 26 last, Minister Noonan confirmed to Ms Murphy that the bank would consult with the minister in relation to “any transaction which resulted in an adverse impact on total regulatory capital of the bank of greater than €100million would require interaction between the minister and the IBRC”.
Further to this, Ms Murphy then asked, if that was the protocol, why wasn’t Minister Noonan involved in discussions with IBRC, regarding the Siteserv sale.
In a reply received last night, Minister Noonan stated that the protocol only came into effect on March 29, 2012 – 14 days after the Siteserv sale was completed.
Last night, Ms Murphy said:
“I’m not surprised by the replies which confirm what I, and others, have long suspected – that the background to this deal and the eventual awarding of the metering contract is mired in convenient circumstances that all amount to something which leaves a very bad taste in the mouth of most right minded citizens.”
Meanwhile, readers may also wish to recall how – following on from Enda Kenny’s controversial ringing of the bell at the New York Stock Exchange with Mr O’Brien on March 19, 2012 – on March 28, 2012, Labour’s Joan Burton spoke about Mr O’Brien in the Dáil, saying:
“It is perhaps time for the Government to reflect on how it should in future interact with people against whom adverse findings have been made by tribunals… We live in a Republic and the representation of each citizen should be what counts rather than the amount of money a particular citizen can spend. We can look forward to a period of reform in which this Government will change the political landscape and our capacity to report and hold to account lobbyists.”
Previously: Contains Impurities
Thanks Catherine Murphy