Profits slide at ferry firm

Ferry and freight services group Irish Continental has said it is cautious about its growth prospects for this year, after seeing pre-tax profits fall by over 20% last year.

Full-year figures for 2012 show the group — which owns the Irish Ferries and the Eucon freight businesses — generated pre-tax profits of €21m last year; down from €26.4m in 2011.

Group revenues rose by 1.7% to €256.1m, with basic earnings per share rising by just under 65% to 183.2c. Despite a 3.2% fall in EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation) to €45.8m and a 2.2% drop in operating profits to €26.5m, John McGuckian, group chairman, said that last year’s performance had been “resilient”.

He said: “There is now some emerging evidence of an improvement in the Irish economy, but we remain cautious; particularly in relation to freight capacity.”

The ferries division grew revenues by 2.9% to €160m, with operating profit rising from €22m to €22.4m. The increase in profit was down to increased passenger and car revenue, offset by lower freight revenue and higher fuel costs.

Although Irish Ferries’ passenger numbers were up by 1.1%, the group said that car and passenger markets continued to prove difficult. It noted that Britain — its key market — proved “particularly challenging”.

“On the other hand, there was a modest gain on the Ireland/France service, despite additional capacity introduced by one competitor,” the company said.

On the freight side, ICG said the Republic’s roll-on/ roll-off (RO-RO) market remained challenging, with overall volumes marginally down on the previous year.

‘RO-RO’ freight volumes fell by 5.6%, with container freight volumes down by 5.7%, ICG said.

The group’s share price was up by nearly 3% yesterday at just under €21.

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