Business Irish

Tuesday 19 September 2017

Steady on No bid plans for ICG boss after stake sale

John Mulligan

John Mulligan

EAMONN Rothwell, the boss of ferry group Irish Continental (ICG), has "no current intentions" of making a fresh bid for the €400m group after one of the company's major shareholders sold its entire stake last week.

Mr Rothwell owns almost 16pc of ICG, which most consumers recognise by its Irish Ferries trading name.

"I have no current intentions of making an approach in relation to a buyout. It's not an agenda item," said Mr Rothwell, speaking after ICG's annual general meeting in Dublin yesterday. ICG currently has a market capitalisation of €414m.

A former stockbroker, Mr Rothwell was party to attempts to take the company private between 2007 and 2009. The first offer made by Mr Rothwell and management was trumped by a €561m offer from Moonduster, a consortium of Philip Lynch's One51 investment group and Cork-based Doyle Shipping. That lapsed and Moonduster and Mr Rothwell joined forces in late 2008 to table a fresh offer for the ferry group, but they never got around to actually making an offer to shareholders.

Last week, Doyle Shipping Group sold its almost 13pc holding in a share placement. A 29pc stake owned by failed developer Liam Carroll was sold in 2009 by AIB.

"The world changes. It's not an agenda item today," said Mr Rothwell, who declined to comment on the sale by the Doyle Group.

He added that ICG, which made a €40m pre-tax profit last year, is keeping a watching brief for distressed assets -- both vessels and companies -- that may come up for sale, but said there was nothing specific on the radar at the moment.

He also said that ICG's future plans were unlikely to involve expanding beyond its Ireland and UK operational area.

Mr Rothwell also predicted that there would be no economic growth in Ireland this year and said it was too early to tell what might happen in 2012. ICG handles a large volume of the truck freight that moves in and out of Ireland and Mr Rothwell called on Dublin Port to reduce its charges in light of the current economic conditions.

"Dublin Port hasn't reduced its charges whereas our freight charges have gone down significantly," said Mr Rothwell.

"The other key difference with Dublin Port is that it's the only port that we operate ferries into that doesn't have a volume rebate scheme," he added. "So you pay the same rate at Dublin Port if you move one truck (or) 100,000 trucks through it."

Despite the issue on pricing, Mr Rothwell questioned whether it would make sense for Dublin Port to be wholly or partly privatised.

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