Eurotunnel finally moves into profit after 14 years

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The Independent Online

Fourteen years after the first train passed through the Channel tunnel between London and Paris, Eurotunnel has made a profit.

On reporting its first, modest steps into the black—the company reported a €1.5m (£1.2m) profit last year – chief executive Jacques Gounon sought to draw a line under the company's troubled past yesterday, declaring that the company was "nothing like the old Eurotunnel". As if to further emphasise the point, he said he expected the group to pay a dividend next year, which would be another first for the long-suffering group.

The company's new found financial health came only after a bruising restructuring process that saw the company's debt load halve last year, from €9.2bn to €4.1bn now. The deal saved the group from bankruptcy but shrunk the holdings of its previous owners to just 13 per cent, wiping out not only institutions but also thousands of small investors who bought in when the company listed in the 80's.

The infrastructure investment fund of Goldman Sachs holds bonds that are convertible into shares and will become the group's single largest shareholders with a stake of up to 15 per cent if it chooses to exercise its conversion rights.

The company booked a one-off €3.3bn profit last year as a result of the restructuring. Mr Gounon said he will now push ahead with the second phase of the company's capital restructuring and hopes to launch a €900m fundraising by early May.

The recently completed high-speed rail lines on the UK side of the route and the new station at London's St Pancras station has shaved a quarter of an hour off travel times and has helped to boost traffic in recent months. Turnover through the first three months of this year leapt by 15 per cent to €187.6m.

The company makes most of its money from fees it charges to train companies who use the tunnel that connects England and France. The increased hassle of air travel is also thought to be helping push up passenger numbers on the route.