Irish Continental ‘totally prepared’ for Brexit

Over 90% of shareholders approve remuneration levels of the ferries operator

Eamonn Rothwell, managing director, at the Irish Continental Group: Total revenues for the ferries division for the first four months rose by 3.9 per cent to €53.6 million. Photograph: Eric Luke

Eamonn Rothwell, managing director, at the Irish Continental Group: Total revenues for the ferries division for the first four months rose by 3.9 per cent to €53.6 million. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Irish Continental Group (ICG) has said it is totally prepared to meet the challenges posed by Brexit, whatever way those challenges emerge. Speaking at the group’s annual general meeting, John McGuckian, ICG chairman, said, “we’re confident that whatever happens, we will react in an efficient and profitable way”.

Speaking to The Irish Times after the meeting, ICG chief executive Eamonn Rothwell said he’d prefer if sterling wasn’t so weak but he didn’t show concern on the basis that he doesn’t “know what Brexit is yet”. Mr Rothwell added that he doesn’t expect the group to suffer as 40 per cent of travellers on the Irish Sea are travellers originating in Ireland, while the remainder are British.

At the group agm there was no opposition to any of the resolutions, with remuneration practices in the company supported by over 90 per cent of shareholders. The shareholders dividend of 7.76 cent per share was also approved at the meeting. That dividend will be paid in June.

In a trading update prior to the agm the group said it has agreed to the €45 million sale of a passenger ferry to a New Zealand company, KiwiRail, as revenues for the first four months of the year grew 4 per cent.

The MV Kaitaki, which was built in 1995 and previously operated under names including the Isle of Innisfree and Pride of Cherbourg, has been chartered out by ICG since 2002, most recently to KiwiRail.

“We consider €45 million for this 21-year-old vessel to be an attractive price,” said analysts at Investec in Dublin in a note to clients.

ICG’s latest trading statement said that consolidated group revenue for the first four months of the year came to €95.1 million, up 4 per cent on the year, while net debt fell to €24.5 million from €37.9 million at the end of 2016.

For the year to May 13th, ICG’s Irish Ferries carried 103,200 cars, a decrease of 0.7 per cent on the same period last year, while roll-on, roll-off (ro-ro) freight volumes fell by 1.7 per cent.

Ro-ro volumes

However, the group said the declines in cars and ro-ro volumes was largely down to “dry-docking schedules” – when vessels are taken into the service yard and checks and repairs are carried out – as well as “tough” comparable figures for the strong year-earlier period. Mr Rothwell said the period to May 13th was not significant for the group and that summer is a more important period in terms of traffic.

Total revenues for the ferries division for the first four months rose by 3.9 per cent to €53.6 million.

In the group’s container and terminal division, revenues increased by 4.3 per cent to €44.1 million as container freight volumes shipped were up 4.5 per cent.

Meanwhile, ICG said it expects to take delivery of a new ship being built for it by Germany’s Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft in June next year. The group said last year that the new 435-cabin cruise ferry will cost €144 million and is expected to be introduced on midweek Dublin-Holyhead routes and on the Ireland-France routes on weekends now served by the MV Epsilon. The MV Epsilon is chartered by the group and Mr Rothwell said that the new ship will give them the option of ending this charter.

In notes to investors, both Davy and Goodbody said they expected the group to enter a net cash position by the end of the year with the latter forecasting net cash of €2.2 million.

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