CONTINUATION OF STRONG PERFORMANCE
Revenue for the year amounted to €584.9 million (2021: €334.5 million) while operating profit amounted to of €66.7 million compared with a loss of €(0.2) million in 2021. Principal variations on the prior year relate to the recovery in passenger volumes, continued growth in our freight volumes and revenue and an increase in container charter ship rates.
The tax charge is €2.7 million in 2022 compared with a charge of €0.8 million in 2021. The corporation tax charge of €2.7 million (2021: €0.7 million) comprises Irish and UK corporation tax. Certain activities qualify to be taxed under tonnage tax (which is an EU approved special tax regime for qualifying shipping activities) in Ireland. A reconciliation of the tax charge showing the effect of the tonnage tax regime on the Group’s tax charge is shown at note 8 to the Financial Statements. The deferred tax charge was €nil in 2022 compared to a charge of €0.1 million in 2021.
Earnings per share
Basic EPS was 33.6 cent compared with (2.6) cent in 2021. The primary reason for the increase in Group profitability versus the prior year.
Adjusted basic EPS (before the net interest (income) / cost on defined benefit obligations and non-trading items) was 33.6 cent compared with (2.7) cent in 2021.
Cash flow and investment
EBITDA for the year was €127.2 million (2021: €52.3 million). There was a net inflow of €1.2 million due to positive working capital movements, pension funding movements of €1.1 million, yielding cash generated from operations amounting to €132.0 million (2021: €67.0 million).
Interest paid was €4.0 million (2021: €8.4 million) while taxation paid was €1.7 million (2021: €0.8 million).
Capital expenditure outflows amounted to €75.7 million (2021: €55.2 million) which included €57.4 million of strategic capital expenditure. Strategic capital expenditure included the purchase of an eighth container vessel the CT Pachuca, the purchase of the Isle of Inisheer and rubber-tyred gantry cranes for Dublin Ferryport Terminal.
Total dividends of €24.2 million were paid during the year (2021: €nil) and €49.2 million (2021: €19.8 million) was expended in buying back the Group’s equity.
The above cash flows resulted in a year-end net debt of €171.1 million (2021: €142.2 million) net debt, which comprised gross borrowings of €167.7 million (2021: €123.1 million), lease obligations of €42.4 million (2021: €57.6 million) offset by cash balances of €39.0 million (2021: €38.5 million). The key net debt / EBITDA (pre non-trading items) ratio was 1.2 times (2021: 2.6 times).
Dividend and share buybacks
Following the easing of travel restrictions and the consequent improvement in passenger revenues together with the continuation of strong performance in all other revenue streams, the Board considered it appropriate to recommence the payment of dividends. The Company paid a final dividend in respect of financial year 2021 of 9.00 cent per ordinary share on 7 July 2022 to shareholders on the register at the close of business on 10 June 2022. The Company paid an interim dividend in respect of financial year 2022 of 4.64c per share. The total amount paid was €24.2 million.
During the year, the Group bought back 12.0 million shares which were cancelled. The total consideration paid for these shares was €49.2 million (2021: €19.8 million).
The Group has four, separately funded, company-sponsored defined benefit obligations covering employees in Ireland, the UK and the Netherlands. The Group also participates in the UK based industry-wide scheme, the Merchant Navy Officers Pension Fund (MNOPF) in which participating employers share joint and several liability. Aggregate pension assets in the four company-sponsored schemes at year end were €124.8 million (2021: €145.8 million), while combined pension liabilities were €91.6 million (2021: €140.5 million). The total net surplus of all defined benefit pension schemes at 31 December 2022 was €33.2 million in comparison to a €5.3 million surplus at 31 December 2021.
Financial risk management
The principal objective of the Group’s treasury policy is the minimisation of financial risk at reasonable cost. To minimise risk the Group may use interest rate swaps and forward foreign currency contracts. The Group does not trade in financial instruments for speculative purposes.
Interest rate management
The interest rates on Group borrowings at 31 December 2022, comprising loan notes and finance lease obligations have been fixed at a contracted rate at the date of drawdown with the relevant lender, eliminating exposure to interest rate risk on borrowings. The average effective interest rate at 31 December 2022 was 2.40% (2021: 1.60%). Debt interest cover as defined under our banking covenants to operating cash flows for the year was 36.0 times (2021: 12.6 times).
The Group has determined that the euro is the presenting currency in which it reports its results. The Group also has significant sterling and US dollar cash flows. The Group’s principal policy is to minimise currency risk by matching foreign currency assets and liabilities and to match cash flows of like currencies as far as possible. Exposure to the US dollar relates mainly to fuel costs. The Group has in place fuel surcharge arrangements with its commercial customers which recovers a portion of movements in euro fuel costs above a base level which partially mitigates the exposure to US dollar currency movements.
Commodity price management
Bunker oil costs constitute a separate and significant operational risk, partly as a result of historically significant price fluctuations. In the Container and Terminal Division, bunker costs above a base level are offset to a large extent by the application of prearranged price adjustments with our customers. Similar arrangements are in place with freight customers in the Ferries Division. In the passenger sector, changes in bunker costs are included in the ticket price to the extent that market conditions will allow. Bunker consumption was 161,900 tonnes in 2022 (2021: 129,400 tonnes). The increase in consumption was primarily due to increased activity levels on the Ferries Division’s new service on the English Channel following the introduction of a third vessel. The average cost per tonne of heavy fuel oil (HFO) fuel in 2022 was 47% higher than in 2021 while marine gas oil (MGO) was 107% higher than in 2021.
The Group’s credit risk arising on its financial assets is principally attributable to its trade and other receivables. The concentration of credit risk in relation to trade is limited due to the exposure being spread over a large number of counterparties and customers. The Group also has a significant long term receivable relating to a bareboat hire purchase arrangement which is secured by retention of title to the vessel.
It is Group policy to maintain available facilities which allow the Group to conduct its business in an orderly manner. The target level is reviewed from time to time in line with the Group’s future requirements over the medium term and will comprise cash deposits and committed banking facilities. Total available facilities at 31 December 2022 amounted to €67.4 million, comprising cash balances of €39.0 million together with undrawn committed facilities of €28.4 million with average maturity of 1.4 years (2021: 2.4 years). Total drawn facilities of €168.2 million had a weighted average maturity of 2.5 years (2021: 3.6 years) over remaining terms of up to 8 years (2021: 9 years).
Chief Financial Officer
8 March 2023