It's been 26 years, billions of investment, a series of boardroom bust-ups and more than a little political intrigue, but Eurotunnel, the company that operates the Channel Tunnel between Britain and France, yesterday unveiled its first proper profit.
For the year to December 2011, Eurotunnel is in the black to the tune of €11m (£9.2m). While the company has recorded profits before on an operational basis, they have previously always been undercut by "exceptional" items or other matters.
Long-suffering shareholders will also be cheered to hear that the dividend payment is to be doubled. However, even at the new, higher level it will only be eight euro cents a share.
The company predicts that bookings will soar for both the Queen's Jubilee in June and the London Olympics Eurotunnel reckons it can manage the "waves" of extra passengers it is expecting by speeding up shuttle crossing times to 30 minutes – five minutes faster than presently. To achieve this, the shuttles will travel at 100mph. At the moment the trains reach 90mph.
Revenues are up by 16 per cent to €845m. The profit compares to a loss of €58m for 2010. Almost 19 million people and about 17.7 million tonnes of freight crossed the Channel through the tunnel during 2011.
Eurotunnel has debts of €3bn, but insists they are structured in a way as to be perfectly manageable. "We are on the front foot," said the company bullishly.
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