Ferry operator ICG eyes choppy seas
Ferry operator ICG, which trades under the Irish Ferries brand, said 2013 will continue to present a "challenging economic backdrop" despite signs of improvement in Ireland.
The company said its operating profit fell 2.2pc to €26.5m last year, even as revenue rose 1.7pc to €256.1m.
It carried 1.54 million passengers, which was 1.1pc more than in 2011, and 353,800 cars, which was up 0.3pc on 2011.
Chairman John McGuckian said: "There is now some emerging evidence of an improvement in the Irish economic environment, but we remain cautious, particularly in relation to freight capacity."
Freight volumes were down 5.6pc year on year to 183,700 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units – a standard industry measure). That decline came even as exports from Ireland remained largely robust for a good portion of 2012.
The company blamed the decline on the economic backdrop and over-capacity in the market. It said that over-capacity, particularly on longer sea routes, was "unsustainable at current market demand".
"The extremely challenging economic circumstances in the Republic and UK contributed to the lack of growth in the market and the pressure on operating costs for our freight customers remained intense," it added.
ICG also recorded a €21m gain from the disposal of its Rotterdam-based Feederlink container business.
It said that in the first half of 2012, ICG's passenger volumes were up 0.9pc and car volumes were down 1.9pc. In the second half, they grew 1.2pc and 2pc respectively. It said that the strength of sterling during the year, combined with positive movement in average fares, resulted in increased yields.
But ICG said that rising fuel prices had provided "real challenges in determining ticket prices". Its fuel bill rose 13.4pc to €53.2m last year.
"Our objective is to provide maximum value to our markets while maintaining some equilibrium in the returns we make from this key area of revenue," it said.
Net debt at the group soared last year to €116m from €7.8m as ICG completed a €123m share buy-back programme during the year.