First-half profits up 7% at Irish Ferries owner despite China slump

Weak Chinese demand led to a fall in container volumes, says Irish Continental Group

Irish Continental Group (ICG) says it remains “cautious” about the outlook for container shipping volumes this year amid a steep decline in demand from China, which lowered revenues and volumes at its terminals in Dublin and Belfast in the first half of the year.

Operating profits at the Irish Ferries owner rose almost 7 per cent to €16.2 million in the six months to the end of June with group revenues ahead by 0.3 per cent to €264 million, driven by a “significantly improved” performance at its ferry operation.

Ferry revenues climbed more than 7 per cent to €179.8 million over the period compared with the first six months of 2022 “as travel patterns continued to return towards pre-pandemic levels after the disruption caused by Covid-19 across 2020 and 2021″, the Dublin-listed company said.

Its Ireland-UK, Ireland-France and UK-France routes saw a 13.8 per cent increase in passenger numbers year on year while the number of cars carried on its ferries increased 7 per cent. Commercial volumes also climbed with roll-on/roll-off freight volumes ahead by 5.5 per cent.


Group fuel costs, meanwhile, amounted to €49 million, down from €58 million for the same period last year, due to declines in wholesale fuel prices in the past 12 months.

But container volumes, including those handled by ICG’s shipping line subsidiary Eucon, slumped 15.9 per cent compared with the first half of 2022, while revenue in the division decreased by 8.6 per cent to €101.5 million.

The number of containers handled at ICG’s container terminals in Dublin and Belfast fell 7.5 per cent with volumes at Dublin Ferryport Terminals down 5 per cent and lifts at Belfast Container Terminal down 11.4 per cent.

ICG said the decline was “driven by weak export and import levels in China”.

“While the strong revenue performance in the ferries division has continued year to date, we remain cautious over the timing of a recovery in container shipping volumes and the impact of potential cost increases arising out of environmental levies,” said John B McGuckian, ICG chairman, in a statement accompanying the results. “Nevertheless, given the strength of our business model, our balance sheet and the diversity of our income flows we remain confident about our future prospects.’’

ICG has recommended the payment of an 4.87 cent per share interim dividend for the period, up from 4.64 cent for the first half of 2022. The final payment is estimated to be worth €8.6 million, the group said.

Ian Curran

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times