I am considering the content of the report referred to in the Question, which was published on 30 September, in the context of Government policy. The Programme for Government recognises that a modernised post office network will provide a better range of financial services and e-commerce services for citizens and enterprise, as part of our commitment to a sustainable nationwide post office network.
While it is longstanding Government policy that postal services will not be directly subsidised by the Government, we remain fully committed to a sustainable post office network as a key component of the economic and social infrastructure in both rural and urban areas.
An Post's social value has been particularly evident during the current Covid crisis. It has played a valuable role in its commitment to rural communities and to the elderly and vulnerable in our society.
In response to the structural challenges facing the postal sector generally and An Post, the company put in place a Strategic Plan for the medium-long term future of the company. The Plan covers the period 2017 – 2021.
In order to implement the Plan, the cost of which was estimated to be in the region of €150m, the Minister for Finance provided a loan of €30m to the company in December 2017 to support the renewal of the post office network (€15m) and the continued fulfilment of a 5 day per week mails delivery service (€15m).
An Post is continuing to undergo vital transformation as part of the delivery of its strategic plan which has seen the company split into two distinct business units, An Post Mails and Parcels and An Post Retail.
An Post is transforming its retail network by delivering new products and new formats. This includes, among other things, diversifying and growing the financial services products it provides for individuals and SMEs to include loans, credit cards and more foreign exchange products; local banking in association with the major banks and a full range of State Savings products. Two new dedicated sub-brands, An Post Money and a new business-to-business brand, An Post Commerce, were launched. Investment by An Post of €50 million in the network is about getting communities to use the enhanced services in their local post office.
The strategic plan put in place to transform the company has resulted in An Post recording an operating profit of over €41m for 2019, the third consecutive year of significant financial improvement bringing the Group out of its loss making position of 2016.
Government believes An Post has untapped potential to do more and make a further significant contribution across many areas of public, business and community life in Ireland. With an evolving mandate An Post can emerge as a central hub for a wide variety of valuable community focused services.