Recession hits Peel Ports despite increased turnover

Michael Hunt

Peel Ports has announced an increase in its turnover in the year to 31 March 2009, despite the recession causing a dip in cargo volumes.

Accounts for holding company Peel Ports Shareholder Financeco show the top line was up 5.9% to £399m while pre-tax profits slipped to £10.6m from £11.4m and EBITDA rose 7.3% to £122.4m.

Peel Ports, the UK's second largest ports group, said its diverse portfolio of ports and activities meant its business had remained resilient despite a 6.2% drop in tonnage throughput to 60.1m.

Director Alan Barr has said "present levels of activity in the business will be maintained" for the next year and growth is expected from then on.

Peel Ports' English portfolio includes the Mersey Docks & Harbour Company, the Manchester Ship Canal, Port Salford and Medway Ports.

The group is also the statutory harbour authority for the Port of Liverpool and the Twelve Quays terminal in Birkenhead. It also provides port facilities, freight forwarding and cargo handling services in Glasgow, Greenock, Dublin and Belfast, according to the accounts.

Peel acquired Mersey Docks & Habour Company, the largest part of the group, in 2005. In 2006, Peel sold a 49% stake in Peel Ports to RREEF, the real estate division of Deutsche Bank for a reported £775m.

As it reported last year, the group identified its high level of debt, which stands at £1.1bn and is due to be paid back between 2013 and 2046, as a key financial risk.

In the year the group paid £60.7m interest on its bank debt, down from £70m the previous year. The company also paid a £30m interim dividend, on a par with last year.

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