EuroBusiness Media (EBM): Getlink reports results for 2018. Jacques Gounon, a warm welcome to you, you are the Chairman and CEO of Getlink. You are presenting FY results, they are positive but with Brexit just around the corner, can the success continue?
Jacques Gounon: Hi. First of all, I would like to comment 2018 which has been an excellent year, really excellent year. And I would say, if I may summarise, 2018 better than expected in all ways and all businesses. I know that there is a certain level of uncertainty about the Brexit outcome, but as I will explain, I don’t think that this could have a significant impact on our businesses, even if we are, let’s say “Brexit-ready” in all assumptions which could happen. And the best way in order to give such evidence of confidence in the future is the fact that the board has decided to propose to the next AGM a significant increase of the dividend this year, an increase by 20% which means 36 cents by share in order to highlight the fact that the only thing which is certain at the present time is the fact that our dividend policy will continue to be implemented.
EBM: Let’s get back, maybe, to this excellent year, as you said….
Jacques Gounon: I think we need to give some key figures. Revenues have been up by 5%, more importantly EBITDA grew by 9% up to €569 million. €569 million – an historical record, very robust profit. If we consider free cash flow, it’s +7% and at the end of the day, which is let’s say the first time we have such long-term historical records, it’s the net profit €130 million, up by 21%. So we can say ‘Yes, 2018 has been really a very excellent year”. And we are in a really robust positioning in order to address 2019 and years later.
EBM: Could you tell us more about the lines of businesses?
Jacques Gounon; First of all, Eurotunnel, the fixed link, the Channel Tunnel is a unique asset. Incredible unique asset. And you know that traffic has been better than expected, once again. 21 million passengers and both Eurostar and le Shuttle have been very successful. 1.7 million trucks, historical records, 2.7 million cars. So really booming everywhere. Having said that, and if we consider 2019 and probably Brexit consequences, we do think that there is a sure need to cross very rapidly the channel that both goods and customers/passengers have this unique means to cross the channel in the easiest way and the fastest way. I would say we are in a time where time is absolutely key and we are offering both quality of service and time saving. It’s why we are very confident in the long-term.
EBM: How about your guidance for 2019 and beyond?
Jacques Gounon: I think we must assume two key different Brexit outcomes, of course, No Deal or a kind of Soft Brexit. First of all, I would like to ask negotiators to continue and deliver the best agreement they can reach and I still consider that this could happen. I know that the Confederation of British Industry made some very tough comments about the potential negative consequences of Brexit, but I must just remind that on our own stream, which is just-in-time but also express deliveries and things like that, we have a key positioning and I do think that this business will not be the most impacted business. Having said that, we are Brexit-ready. What does it mean? It means that we work with both States in order for them to have the best organisation to deliver customs controls but beyond that we are recruiting some interim staff in order to support our customers, kind of marshals, in order to say the control border is there and not there and to ease, by every means, the possibility for our customers to keep what is our key strengths, which is the fluidity of the border, a frictionless border, a smart border we are working on. So we have two main assumptions for 2019. If there is a deal, such level, if there is no deal it would be worse than if there is a deal but it’s something which is the result of a very cautious, very conservative approach. I account for the fact that it could have some significant – even if it is relatively small – disruptions in Q2. We have accounted them and beyond this disruption period, we are ready to be back to what has been our increased profitability year after year.
EBM: Jacques Gounon, thank you.
Jacques Gounon: Thank you.