Positive forecast for Irish Ferries

The head of Irish Ferries has said that initial sales indications for the summer months have been “reassuringly positive”, adding that the company could also survive a collapse of the euro currency.

Speaking after yesterday’s AGM of Irish Continental Group — which owns Irish Ferries and the Eucon and Feederlink freight businesses — group chief executive Eamonn Rothwell remarked that things were looking positive after a mixed start to the year.

Mr Rothwell said that there was no real change since ICG’s last trading update — covering the first four months of this year — published earlier this month, when increased losses, declining revenue and lower debt was reported. However, he said that advance bookings for Irish Ferries’ summer schedule had been “reassuringly positive” and that visitor numbers from Britain — across all travel options, combined — should rise by between 7% and 8% this year; on the back of things like improved promotion of Ireland as a destination, the Government’s VAT initiatives and lowering hotel prices.

Asked about the consequences of a possible collapse of the eurozone, or an Irish exit from the single currency, Mr Rothwell was surprisingly benign; saying that it could be positive for passenger numbers and make Ireland more attractive to British holidaymakers. However, he noted it would have a more pronounced effect on the group’s freight business as it would help exporters but hinder importers.

Mr Rothwell also said that ICG’s fleet is not in need of upgrading, saying that there was no immediate need for ship replacements, and shouldn’t be for another five or 10 years. In terms of expansion, he reiterated that Irish Ferries had no plans to expand to the Mediterranean and was happy with its current markets of Ireland, Britain and France.

ICG’s shareholders passed all resolutions at yesterday’s meeting; including the special resolution allowing management to release tied-up funds, of over €50m, for certain reasons like share buybacks and dividend payments. Mr Rothwell said the move would enable the board to pursue a more progressive dividend policy for shareholders in the future.


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