ICG shrugs off Brexit to put in strong performance in 2019

Ferry company is facing pressure from poor weather, coronavirus but outlook remains positive

The introduction of the WB Yeats cruise ferry helped  strengthen  ICG’s financial position last year.

The introduction of the WB Yeats cruise ferry helped strengthen ICG’s financial position last year.


Transport group Irish Continental Group (ICG) said earnings and revenue increased in 2019 as the company delivered an in-line performance, despite Brexit uncertainty.

The introduction of the WB Yeats cruise ferry, which was delivered in 2018 and entered service at the start of 2019, the purchase of two additional container ships and improvements in schedule integrity contributed to the strengthened financial position in the year ended December 31st, 2019.

Revenue rose 8.2 per cent to €357.4 million, with earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation up €18.4 million to €86.8 million.

The group saw a 10.4 per cent increase in roll-on roll-off freight units, with the number of containers shipped during the period up almost 5 per cent. The company saw a smaller increase in cars carried on its vessels, with a 2.2 per cent rise to 401,300 cars.

“The overall car market, to and from the Republic of Ireland, fell by approximately 2 per cent in 2019 to 777,600 cars, while the all-island market, ie including routes into Northern Ireland, is estimated to have decreased by 1 per cent,” the company said.

“In the first half of the year Irish Ferries car volumes fell by 6.0 per cent, reflecting the planned withdrawal of fastcraft services in the winter period. In the second half of the year, volumes were up by 8.3 per cent, largely attributable to the disruption to services of the Ulysses in 2018 and additional conventional ferry services on the Dublin – Holyhead route due to the introduction of the WB Yeats.”

Including coach and foot passengers, the numbers carried to and from the Republic decreased by 3.5 per cent year on year to 2.92 million passengers, and the total Irish market fell by 1.5 per cent. Irish Ferries’ passenger numbers carried rose to 1.541 million, with volumes falling in the first half by 4.7 per cent, offset by seasonally more significant second half of the year, which saw a rose of 8.5 per cent in passenger numbers.

The group also sold the Oscar Wilde to MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, a deal that yielded €14.9 million in profit in 2010, with the total gross consideration of €28.9 million to be paid in instalments over six years.

ICG said its concession agreement for the operation of the Belfast Container Terminal was extended to 2026.

“2019 was a successful year for the group, with material growth across both divisions,” said chairman John B McGuckian. “Following the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, current rules on trade, travel and business for the UK and EU will continue to apply until the end of the transition period, currently scheduled for no later than the December 31st, 2020. There is uncertainty as to the form of the trade deal, if any, which may be negotiated and applicable post the transition period. Nevertheless, we look forward in 2020 to another year of growth across our businesses and further progress in meeting our long term strategic goals.”

The company said it was monitoring the ongoing outbreak of coronavirus Covid-19 in its areas of operation and would work closely with all relevant authorities.