Strong growth for ferry group

Irish Continental Group has reported a 10.3% year-on-year increase in revenues for the third quarter of 2014, its most important period of the year.

The ferry and freight group, which owns the Irish Ferries brand and freight services firm Eucon, yesterday reported revenues of €93.4m for the three months to the end of September, up from €84.7m for the corresponding period last year.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation were up by around 4.5%, year-on-year, to €28.1m and operating profit rose by nearly 7% to €23.8m.

The group’s performance for the first nine months of the year was also strong, with revenues up by nearly 9% at €224.1m. The earnings before exceptional items were marginally down at €42.1m, but operating profits rose from €28.7m to €29m.

ICG said: “Summer trading has been encouraging across most business areas, with volume and revenue growth in the passenger, car, and roll on/roll off segments partially offset by weaker container freight volumes. Fuel costs, in the quarter, were €14.3m [€12.7m in the third quarter of 2013] due to the additional sailings of the Epsilon, partially offset by lower fuel prices.”

Volumes in the year to date were good, with passengers up 5%, year-on-year, to just over 1.5m and cars up 9% at 347,200. Container freight volumes were down 1%, but roll on/roll off freight rose by 22%. Net debt, as of the end of September, was €57.6m, compared to €71.9m as of the end of June.

“The strong volume growth is a justification of the company’s decision to add additional capacity with the Epsilon, allowing it to recover almost all of the additional costs this year. Lower fuel prices are also helping — marking to market there is likely a high single-digit saving from fuel for 2015, albeit slightly more than half of this will be given back in the form of lower fuel surcharges,”said Stephen Furlong of Davy Stockbrokers.

“With the implementation of the deficit funding proposal for the Irish Ferries pension scheme, low net debt, and strong trading, the company remains well-positioned looking into 2015 and beyond.”

The Pensions Authority last month sanctioned ICG’s deficit funding proposal for Irish Ferries, which will see it make payments to the scheme of €1.5m per annum for a projected period of 10 years to 2023, or until the deficit is eliminated.

ICG’s share price was up by nearly 1% yesterday to just over €3.


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