No share bounce for Irish Continental Group despite upbeat outlook

Shares in Irish Continental Group (ICG), the owner of Irish Ferries, fell by over 2% yesterday, despite it reporting strong first-half figures and saying bookings have recovered since an initial Brexit hit.

The ferry and freight services business reported a 5.2% year-on-year increase in first-half revenues to €150.5m, adding that earnings were up by nearly 20% at €30.5m and basic earnings per share were ahead of the same period last year by over 32% at 10.3c.

Irish Ferries carried 170,500 cars during the first six months of the year — 5.5% up on the corresponding period last year. Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo) freight volumes were 5.6% ahead, year-on-year, and container volumes grew by 7.4%.

On top of that, ICG’s net debt was reduced by over 57% to €18.9m and it upped its interim dividend by 5% to 3.82c per share.

ICG’s share price closed down 1.67%, at €4.72, yesterday. It still lags the €5.60 price level it began the year with and even the €5.72 level it was at around the time of the UK’s vote to leave the EU, at the end of June.

Regarding Brexit, ICG said the referendum outcome did have an initial negative impact on tourism bookings, but Irish Ferries has since seen a full recovery.

“Tourism carryings over the key summer months were broadly in line with expectation though the continuing sterling weakness since the end of June has resulted in lower euro-equivalent tourism yields,” said chairman John B. McGuckian.

“The UK referendum result has, to date, had very little impact on RoRo freight volumes which remain strong. Notwithstanding the impact of weaker sterling, ICG is well-placed to benefit from the underlying growth trends in both car and freight volumes.”

That said, ICG noted that it remains “too early” to assess the future impact of the Brexit result, particularly on RoRo freight volumes.

Earlier this year, ICG added to its Irish Ferries fleet, spending €144m on its first newly-built vessel in 15 years — a move which analysts suggested could add €14m to the group’s annual earnings beyond 2020 and deliver €11m in recurring savings from no chartering costs and laying up its fast ferry in the winter season.


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