Wednesday 26 October 2016

Preparing for Brexit a 'waste of time' says Irish Continental chief

Published 14/05/2016 | 02:30

ICG boss Eamonn Rothwell says Brexit is a ‘complex’ issue. Photo: Mac Innes Photography
ICG boss Eamonn Rothwell says Brexit is a ‘complex’ issue. Photo: Mac Innes Photography

Ferry company Irish Continental Group (ICG) is not preparing for a British exit from the EU, as the firm's chief executive declares it as a "waste of time".

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Speaking at the company's AGM yesterday, ICG boss Eamonn Rothwell said it is impossible to plan around a deal that could take two years to conclude.

"It's a complex thing, it's a political decision at the end of the day, if people want to leave and if the vote is against, which looks unlikely based on the bookies' odds I would say.

"It will take two years at a minimum to negotiate an exit. So you can't possibly anticipate the various aspects of what that negotiating settlement might look like.

"So to try and start planning around something that will take two years to negotiate would quite frankly be a waste of time," Mr Rothwell said.

The ICG chief said it is unclear whether duty-free, which was once a major profit earner for the firm, would return.

Stockbrokers have predicted ICG may be debt free by the end of 2016 and the company has gone some way in achieving that in the first four months of the year.

Net debt at the end of April was €25.9m compared with €44.3m at 31 December 2015.

However, despite the progress made by the firm in reducing the company's debt, Mr Rothwell refused to be drawn on a forecast for the remainder of the year.

"We don't ever forecast ahead and the summer is a key trading period for us. At the end of August/September we'll have a better feel for the year but at this stage we don't give an outlook in the statement," he said.

Revenues at the parent company of Irish Ferries in the opening third of the year increased by 7.4pc to €94.1m while roll-on roll-off (RoRo) freight increased by 8pc.

Total revenue at the ferry business rose by 7.1pc to €51.6m with a 5pc increase in the number of cars being transported.

In the four-month period Irish Ferries carried 90,200 cars while freight carrying stood at 92,300.

The company-owned MV Kaitaki remained on charter, operating in New Zealand, while the four remaining container ships acquired at the end of last year were fully deployed.

ICG expects the recently acquired vessel Westpac Express to be delivered by late May. Last month ICG acquired the vessel for $13.2m.

When asked about further acquisitions, Mr Rothwell said the firm is "always looking at things". Low fuel prices have been beneficial to the company's margins and Mr Rothwell expects the pricing environment to continue.

"My own experience is the trends of the last few weeks few months tend to continue for the next few weeks few months. You don't get a sudden change in the trend next Monday compared to what it is today.

"So in the near term I think the trend certainly looks set to continue."

Total revenues in the container and terminal division amounted to €42.3m, up 13.4pc on the previous year.

Container freight volumes shipped were up 10pc on the previous year at 103,400 twenty foot equivalent units (teu). Units handled at the company's terminals and Dublin increased by 54pc year-on-year.

In December of last year ICG surpassed the €1bn mark in market capitalisation for the first time.

Irish Independent

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