ECONOMY

Minoan Lines’ long haul back to financial strength

Ferry operator Minoan Lines has left the crisis of the last two or three years behind it and is back on the road to profitability, Costas Klironomos, the company’s president, said yesterday. «We are fully certain of a return to rising profitability… the company is now more attractive for any interested investor,» he told a press briefing. Operating income in the January-August period rose to 34.5 million euros from 28.8 million in the same period of 2002, on an increase in sales to 135.2 million from 123.2 million euros. The company now has a fully modern fleet and leads the other three operators active on the Crete and Adriatic routes, Klironomos said. Market share on the Venice and Ancona routes has risen to 36.8 percent for passengers and 40.1 percent for cars. General Manager Costas Kasapakis said Minoan’s debt burden is projected to fall from 645 million euros in 2002 to 587 million this year and 485 million in 2004 after a restructuring program which included a 130-million-euro write-off of losses and provides for all debts to be paid off by 2020. The company expects to distribute a dividend next year. HFD Minoan’s subsidiary Hellas Flying Dolphins (HFD) reported a 51 percent rise in operating income to 25.4 million euros in the first eight months, year-on-year, with a pre-tax result of 16.2 million, compared to 0.6 million euros in the same period of 2002; sales dropped 4.4 percent year-on-year, which the firm attributes to a reduction in its fleet, a stagnating market and the discounts for special passenger categories imposed by the government. HFD, which was badly hit by the accident of its Express Samina that sank in September 2000 at a cost of 80 lives, said it now has a high cash balance and its debt burden is projected to stand at 61 million euros at the end of the year. «HFD’s capital structure is very satisfactory and by far the strongest in the sector,» officials said. According to sources, the improved results are having a positive impact on discussions for business deals with firms «not necessarily» from the shipping sector. Klironomos dismissed reports Minoan is planning to shed its stake in HFG, expressing confidence that the subsidiary can go it alone, but if this is not feasible he would be in favor of a merger.