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Irish Ferries parent firm gets summer profit boost


ICG boss Eamonn Rothwell

ICG boss Eamonn Rothwell

ICG boss Eamonn Rothwell

strong summer trading at Irish ferry operator Irish Continental Group helped to push up the company's operating profit by more than €10m in the three months to the end of September.

In an interim management statement released yesterday, ICG - which is the parent company of Irish Ferries - said revenue for the third quarter to the end of September rose from €105.5m to €95.6m.

The quarter, which covers the months of July, August and September, is the most seasonally significant period for the group for the year.

Turnover at the company, headed by chief executive Eamonn Rothwell, rose to €248.6m from the start of the year to the end of September from €226.3m, bolstered by a strong performance in the first half of the year, which is typically the quietest period for the operator.

Operating profit increased from €24m to €34.2m during the quarter and from €29.2m to €50.6m to the end of September.

Earnings before deductions rose to €38.6m, compared with 28.4m in the third quarter of 2014, and from €42.4m to €64.1m in the nine-month period.

An interim dividend of €6.8m was paid out at the end of the quarter.

The company said volume and revenue growth was strong across both of its two main divisions, ferries and container and terminals.

Its group fuel bill fell by €4.5m in the third quarter to €10.3m.

While oil prices fell, the decline was offset by a stronger dollar and the consumption of more expensive fuels on part of its route network to comply with new EU environmental regulations.

In the year to date total passenger numbers carried were up by 3pc to just over 1.5m, while the number of cars carried rose by 6pc to 362,900.

During the period the group acquired four container vessels which each have a gross capacity of 8,246 tons for €24.2m.

ICG said the vessels are to be offered to the market on a charter basis.

Davy stockbrokers analyst Stephen Furlong said that the summer trading was "very robust, with volume and revenue growth across the group's operating segments".

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He also expects the company to bolster its cash reserves, saying: "Net debt at the end of September was €20.4m compared with €33.7m at June 30th 2015. We expect the company to move significantly into net cash by the end of FY2016."

Goodbody's Jack Diskin also reacted positively to the results, upgrading the broker's estimate for the company's earnings before deductions for its 2016 financial year by €1m to €79.8m.

Goodbody has now upped its earnings estimate for ICG by a total of €22.5m since the start of the year.

Shares in IFG were trading up by 1pc at €5.10 in mid afternoon trading on the Irish Stock Exchange.

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