Shares in cruise firm Carnival drop 15%


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The Independent Online

Carnival has estimated the cost of the disaster at approaching £100 million but shares slumped today on fears the final figure will be much higher.

The parent company of the stricken Costa Concordia admitted that it was not insured for the vessel being out action, which will cost it up to 95 million US dollars (£62 million) in lost profits this year alone.

And while it is covered for the repair of the cruise liner and personal injury claims, it faces excesses of up to 40 million US dollars (£26.1 million).

But the company suffered an £800 million fall in its value as investors tried to weigh up the true cost of the catastrophe.

Wyn Ellis, an analyst at Numis Securities, said over the coming years the cash implications for the company could be up to 1 billion dollars (£652.7 million) once the potential loss of sales are taken into account and it addresses safety issues, although he added this was a worst case scenario.

He said there would be negative short-term implications for bookings across the entire industry, but added that "memories are short" and he expects demand to recover in the long-term.

Mr Ellis believes Carnival, which has more than 100 ships, about half the worldwide cruise market and made profits of £1.2 billion last year, would comfortably be able to afford such a loss.

Other analysts have reportedly suggested that the shipwreck could reduce the company's profits by a tenth this year.

The disaster is also expected to have wider ramifications for the insurance industry, with most London-based stocks expected to have some kind of exposure to the incident. One analyst put insurance claims at up to 800 million US dollars (£522.2 million).

Micky Arison, chairman and chief executive of Carnival, said: "At this time, our priority is the safety of our passengers and crew.

"We are deeply saddened by this tragic event and our hearts go out to everyone affected by the grounding of the Costa Concordia and especially to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives. They will remain in our thoughts and prayers."

Shares in Carnival were down 15% today, although at times they were more than 20% lower as markets opened for the first time following the disaster. Its stock had already fallen about 30% over the previous year as the weak economic climate hit demand for cruises.

The timing of the fatal sinking could not be worse for the business, as January to March is the so-called wave season, accounting for about a third of all bookings.

The company is the world's largest cruise ship operator with headquarters in Southampton and Miami in the US. It owns 11 brands, including P&O, Cunard and Princess Cruises.

Carnival plc, the British side of the business, is concerned with UK operations and is responsible for Costa Cruises, Carnival Cruises and Holland America Line. It traces its origins back to the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company, which was founded in 1822 by Brodie McGhie Willcox, a London ship broker.

Carnival Corp & plc was formed in 2002 when Carnival Corp, the US side of the business, controversially merged with P&O Princess Cruises plc. At the time of the merger it was agreed that P&O Princess would be relisted as Carnival plc in London, remaining as a separate company with a predominantly British shareholder body.