Irish Continental Group sees favourable trading conditions despite Brexit

Irish Continental Group (ICG) chief executive Eamonn Rothwell said yesterday he would be “wasting time” by planning for a possible Brexit and any implications which “might” arise.

Speaking after the ferry and freight services group’s AGM in Dublin, yesterday, Mr Rothwell said the board of ICG — which owns Irish Ferries and the Eucon freight shipping business —has no clear view on Brexit, adding that it is a complex issue which will take a couple of years to negotiate even if it were to become a reality.

Regarding ICG’s current operations, Mr Rothwell said the group has seen a good start to the year, with trading conditions remaining favourable.

In a trading update, ICG yesterday reported a 7.4% year-on-year increase in revenue for the first four months of the year to €91.4m. Net debt stood at €25.9m, down from €44.3m at the end of December.

Revenues from the group’s container and terminal division amounted to €42.3m, for the period, up by 13.4% on the corresponding period last year.

The main ferries business — Irish Ferries — saw a 7.1% annualised revenue rise to €51.6m, despite it being the seasonally less significant part of the year for tourism trade.

During the period Irish Ferries carried 90,200 cars —up 5% year-on-year — and 92,300 roll-on/roll-out freight units, which was up by 8%.

The group also continued to be active in the chartering area, with one ferry remaining on charter in New Zealand, one set to be outsourced in the coming weeks, and four container ships also fully deployed.

One shareholder at yesterday’s meeting asked about the cost associated with damage inflicted on cargo and cars on board Irish Ferries vessel the Epsilon when Storm Imogen impeded its progress from Cherbourg to Dublin in February.

Chairman John McGuckian said an internal inquiry is ongoing but declined to comment on costs incurred.

In March, when reporting a 10.5% increase in annual revenues and a 75% jump in profits, ICG said it expected to see continued earnings and revenue growth this year on the back of low fuel prices.

Mr. Rothwell said, yesterday, that the group expects recent fuel price trends to continue for the foreseeable future.

ICG’s share price — down by around 11% from recent highs before yesterday’s update — closed yesterday down marginally at €4.97. However, analysts still hailed yesterday’s statement as a strong showing.

Davy Stockbrokers maintained its ‘outperform’ tag on the stock with a €5.50 price target.

Goodbody Stockbrokers maintained its ‘buy’ recommendation for the stock.

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