Profits at ICG group jump 19pc as footfall buoys decline in freight
Ferry company carried over 1.5 million passengers in 2010
Pre-exceptional operating profit at ferry group Irish Continental (ICG) jumped 19pc last year to €31.5m as strong growth in passenger revenue offset a 5.2pc decline in freight income.
Releasing full-year 2010 results yesterday, ICG, which trades as Irish Ferries, said that it carried over 1.5m passengers last year on routes between Ireland and Britain and France.
That was 7.8pc more than in 2009. It warned that the current environment remained challenging but said that as competitive freight capacity had been removed from the Irish Sea, its roll-on/roll-off vehicle traffic had risen 11pc so far in 2011 compared to the corresponding period in 2010.
Revenue at the group was barely changed in 2010, rising just 0.7pc to €262.2m for the year. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) climbed 5.7pc to €53.6m and fuel costs soared 31.4pc to €41.4m.
Turnover from its ferries division was up 3.2pc to €153.7m, while EBITDA at that unit was up 35pc to €24.5m.
ICG also operates a container and terminal division, where turnover fell 2.7pc to €109.8m and operating profit tumbled 16.7pc to €7m, mainly due to higher fuel costs, as well as restructuring expenses.
The company recorded an exceptional €9.4m gain from the sale late last year of its Pride of Bilbao vessel to a Russian operator for €37.7m. Including that gain, operating profit was 54.3pc higher at €40.9m.
However, ICG is receiving the sale proceeds over a period of almost six years. It had indicated back in December that the sale would result in a pre-tax gain of €8m.
Irish Ferries carried 367,000 cars in 2010 -- 2.4pc less than it did in 2009, while overall roll-on/roll-off freight numbers fell 9.2pc to 178,000.
The number of containers handled by the group rose 2.3pc to 406,000 TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit -- the standard container freight measure).
Chairman John McGuckian described the results as strong, given the state of the economy.
In the first half of 2010, the group benefited from the volcanic eruption in Iceland that grounded flights in northern Europe.
That resulted in a surge in bookings with Irish Ferries, with passenger numbers rising 12pc in the first six months.
In the second half of 2010, passenger numbers were 4.5pc higher year-on-year, while car numbers fell 3.1pc. Yields were up compared to 2009, the company said.
ICG has declared a final dividend of €1, with no interim dividend having been paid during 2010.
Davy Stockbrokers analyst Stephen Furlong said that ICG's net debt, at €6.3m, is now the lowest it has been since 1993 and said he expected the company might move to review a "progressive dividend policy".
Shares in the group closed flat at €17.60 yesterday.