Irish Continental Group (ICG), the owner of Irish Ferries and other container related companies, saw revenue increase by €57.4 mill (20.7%) to €334.5 mill in 2021.
EBITDA increased by €10.2 mill, principally due to the rise in revenues and a continued focus on cost optimisation.
During the year, the Group commenced Irish Ferries’ services on the Dover/Calais route. The services started on 29th June, 2021 with the deployment of the ‘Isle of Inishmore’.
This route was further boosted with the introduction of the ‘Isle of Innisfree’ on 16th December, 2021. In addition, a third ship was purchased for the route, to be named ‘Isle of Inisheer’, which is expected to enter service in the first half of this year.
The introduction of a third ship onto the Channel route will strengthen ICG’s position and ensure it is a viable alternative to the current operators, the company said.
Year end net debt after capital expenditure of €41.7 mill was €142.2 mill, some 2.6 times EBITDA under banking covenant definitions. ICG also claimed to be in a strong financial position with available liquidity comprising cash and committed bank facilities of €118.9 mill as at 31st December, 2021.
Chairman John McGuckian, said; “2021 was another challenging year for the Group, with a continuation of travel restrictions, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it was also a year of significant progress for the Group in particular with the commencement of Irish Ferries’ services on the strategic Britain/Continental Europe short sea route between Dover and Calais.
“It has been a long-term objective of the Group to expand into this route and its commencement in 2021 is all the more impressive given the current difficulties in our market caused by the pandemic related travel restrictions. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our colleagues who made retention of all critical services possible through the COVID-19 pandemic that is now hopefully behind us,” he said.
EBITDA remained broadly in line with the previous year in the Ferries Division where EBITDA before non-trading items was €23.2 mill (2020 = €22.3 mill).
The division saw increased revenues from the easing of travel restrictions and commencement of the Dover/Calais service, which was offset by an increase in costs, driven primarily by higher fuel prices and increased activity.
As in 2020, when the Group also faced challenging trading conditions, ICG’s diversified revenue streams and cost containment measures protected its strong balance sheet. While net debt increased from €88.5 mill to €142.2 mill, this was primarily due to capital expenditure of €41.7 mill and share buybacks of €19.8 mill.
ICG operates through two divisions; the Ferries Division and the Container and Terminal Division. The Ferries Division operates under the Irish Ferries brand, offering passenger and ro-ro freight services, plus ship chartering activities for vessels within the Group and with third parties.
Irish Ferries operated 6,331 sailings in 2021 (2020=4,501). The increase was due to the reintroduction of the fast craft ‘Dublin Swift’ and sailings on the new Irish Ferries’ Dover/Calais service.
It was estimated that the overall car market, to and from the Republic of Ireland, grew by about 25.8% in 2021 to 357,200 cars, while the all-island market, ie, including routes into Northern Ireland, is estimated to have increased by 54%.
The total sea passenger market – comprising car, coach and foot passengers – to and from the Republic of Ireland increased by 11% on 2020 to a total of 1.2 mill passengers, while the all-island market increased by 39.5%.
The ropax ‘Oscar Wilde’ continued on her bareboat hire purchase agreement with MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co.
Strategic capital expenditure included the purchase of a seventh container vessel (‘CT Daniel’) for €12.8 mill, the purchase of the ‘Isle of Innisfree’, a deposit payment for the ‘Isle of Inisheer’ and rubber-tyred gantry cranes for the Dublin Ferryport Terminal.