Forth Docks sets date for Britannia

THE COMPANY awarded custody of the former Royal Yacht Britannia yesterday claimed it was well placed to handle any economic downturn.

Forth Ports is preparing to open the Britiannia to the public on 19 October as part of an exhibition centre at Leith Docks in Edinburgh. Bill Thomson, Chairman, believes the world-famous ship should become a "significant visitor attraction".

The company, which was privatised and floated six years ago, yesterday announced pre -tax profits for the six months to 30 June up 17 per cent to pounds 12.9 million. That includes a pounds 0.46m exceptional gain on the sale of the Malmaison Hotel. Earnings per share increased 10 per cent to 21.0p per share, up from 19.1p per share in 1997. Turnover rose 12 per cent to pounds 50.2m and the company increased its interim dividend by 11 per cent to 5.0p.

Forth Ports owns and operates seven docks, mostly on the east coast of Scotland, including Grangemouth and Dundee, as well as Tilbury Docks on the Thames Estuary.

Mr Thomson said: "Forth Ports as a group is well placed to withstand any economic downturn by virtue of its broad spread of activities in many different markets, both commodity and geographic."

In May the company was awarded custody of the former Royal Yacht Britiannia by the Ministry of Defence. Forth Ports wants Britannia to draw visitors to Leith where it is building an Ocean Terminal, while proceeds from the vessel will go to a charitable trust.

"The first six months have been very encouraging, with all ports making a positive contribution to profits," said Bill Thomson, chairman of Forth Ports. "We have seen increases in our dry cargo tonnage as our recent capital investments come to fruition.

"Progress on the new Finnish Terminal is on schedule and operations will commence in January."