Eurotunnel passengers are set to face miserable cross-Channel delays due to new immigration exit checks – but investors were given reason to celebrate as the dividend was hiked 20 per cent after annual profits almost doubled.
It comes as the Government demanded that Eurotunnel – and ferry operators – must check the identity of every traveller leaving the UK, which is set to trigger long delays at the train service’s Kent terminal during peak summer travel. Experts predict queues of up to five miles when the new exit-check regime starts on 8 April.
But shareholders will cash in, because in 2014, the 20th anniversary of the opening of the tunnel, Eurotunnel’s Shuttles transported 2.6 million cars and 1.4 million trucks under the English Channel, while Eurostar’s high-speed trains now pack on 3 per cent more passengers – almost 10.4 million. Pre-tax profit shot up 89 per cent to €56m (£41m).
The pacy performance was “led by growth in the UK economy and signs of improvement in Europe”, Eurotunnel said. It’s now proposing a 20 per cent rise in the dividend, to €0.18 a share. Revenues increased by 7 per cent to €1.2bn last year.
Yet just seven years ago Eurotunnel was in the French equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and chairman Jacques Gounon had to instigate major restructuring. The Government is selling its 40 per cent stake in Eurostar to an Anglo-Canadian consortium for £757.1m.