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Rothwell mulls ICG sail away from Irish Stock Exchange

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ICG boss Eamonn Rothwell

ICG boss Eamonn Rothwell

ICG boss Eamonn Rothwell

IRISH FERRIES owner ICG has considered moving from the Irish stock market to the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

ICG boss Eamonn Rothwell told the Sunday Independent last week that a delisting from Ireland is "on the agenda".

"There isn't an Irish plc who isn't examining it," said Rothwell. "Because so many companies have moved [to London], it has come on the agenda. However, we have no immediate plans to change our listing. We'll monitor developments."

There has been an exodus of Irish companies from the Irish Stock Exchange (ISE), with businesses such as Greencore, Grafton Group, CRH, United Drug, and DCC either delisting from the Irish market completely – or switching their primary listing to London. A move to the LSE has generally pushed up share prices– even before the switch has been made. The builders merchants, Grafton, saw its shares jump by 4 per cent on the morning last year that it announced its plans to move.

A stack of flotations on the Irish market over the last eight months, however, could persuade ICG to stay put. Last November, the engineering firm Mincon listed on the ISE. The real estate investment trusts, Green REIT and Hibernia REIT, have raised hundreds of millions of euro after listing on the ISE.

ICG saw its operating profits jump by over a tenth last year. Although its passenger numbers only increased slightly in 2013, Rothwell expects an improvement this year.

"The economic backdrop is improving in Ireland and Britain," said Rothwell. "The housing market is improving and unemployment is coming down. People should feel better about things and there should be an improvement [in passenger numbers]."

Rothwell described ICG's recent investment in an extra ship, Epsilon, as a "major vote of confidence in the Irish economy". "We haven't bought a ship since 2011," he said.

Rothwell believes the Government could stimulate the economy by increasing the amount of money which people can earn before they are hit with the higher rate of income tax.

"We're hitting the top rates of tax in Ireland very early," said Rothwell. "If the government did something to alleviate that [in the next Budget], it would stimulate spending and increase the country's tax take."

Sunday Indo Business