Irish Continental profits in wake of volcano crisis
Ferry company posts 2.2pc rise in revenue after two-month surge in bookings
OPERATING profit at ferry company Irish Continental jumped 24pc to €8.8m in the first six months of the year, as it benefited from a surge in bookings during the volcanic ash crisis that grounded aircraft across northern Europe in April and May.
The company, which operates as Irish Ferries, posted a 2.2pc rise in revenue to €122.4m, with adjusted earnings per share soaring 53.8pc to 34.3 cent.
The firm also cut its net debt by more than 44pc to €26.9m in the period, but the figure is higher than the €21.7m recorded at the end of December.
Irish Continental said this reflected the payment of a €1 dividend during the period, offset to a large degree by strong operating cash flow.
The first half of the year is traditionally the less profitable part of Irish Continental's fiscal period as it doesn't include the bulk of the busy summer season.
Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation rose 6.4pc to €20m for the period. That was despite a 48pc rise in fuel costs during the first half to €20.1m, noted the company.
The number of passengers carried by the operator rose 12pc in the first half of the year to almost 696,000, although fewer cars were transported on its services, with the figure down 1.4pc to 156,400.
However, confirming data from other sources including Dublin Port, Irish Continental noted that the number of container freight units carried by it rose 9.1pc to 204,000.
Roll-on/roll-off freight traffic was down by 12.6pc, however, to 86,600 trucks.
Chairman John McGuckian said that the company remains cautious on the economic prospects for the second half of the year.
Davy Stockbrokers analyst Stephen Furlong said that Irish Continental remained strongly geared toward improving trends in freight and tourism and added the group should be almost debt-free by the end of the year.
Shares in the company closed almost unchanged yesterday in Dublin at €14.70.