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Thursday, 12 April, 2001, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Asylum and foot-and-mouth hit Eurotunnel
Freight train emerging from the Channel Tunnel
Freight traffic has boosted revenues at Eurotunnel
Eurotunnel says its first-quarter results were hit by foot-and-mouth disease and disruption caused by asylum seekers.

The company, which operates the rail tunnel between UK and France, also suffered loss of revenue from its duty-free shops.

Turnover for the first three months of the year fell 2% from last year to 129.7m ($186).

The company scored well with its freight activities, but this was offset by a 10% decline in its car market during the first quarter.

A 'promising sector'

Eurotunnel's freight market for the Dover-Calais/Folkstone route grew by 8% compared with the same period in 2000.

The company also increased its market share in this area by 2% to 48%.

A truck is disinfected for foot-and-mouth
Eurotunnel disinfects wheels for foot-in-mouth disease
"In this particularly promising sector of the market, Eurotunnel offered up to 150 departures per day during the first quarter," the company said in a statement.

The decline in the car market - for the same route - was partly attributed to the abolition of duty-free shopping between European Union countries.

The rail operator, however, maintained its market leadership, with a 60% share of the car market.

Foot-and-mouth disruption

Eurotunnel chairman Patrick Ponsolle added: "The activities of Eurotunnel have been affected by the disruption of our activities by asylum seekers and, along with other cross-Channel operators, by the first impacts of the foot-and-mouth outbreak."

Britain's got a big perception problem to work on

Eurotunnel spokesman
Passenger numbers for the Eurostar rail service increased by 4% in the first quarter to 1.6 million, compared to the same period last year.

But the company said the outbreak of the disease had reduced the number of tourists visiting the UK from Europe.

"Britain's got a big perception problem to work on," said a Eurotunnel spokesman.

Earlier this year the company reported that it had a problem with the growing number of asylum seekers trying to cross to the UK, stowed away in trains or lorries being transported across the Channel.

Eurotunnel also called for urgent government action to stem tide of illegal immigrants attempting to walk to Britain through the tunnel.

Other activities

Some of the company's other activities did not fare well either, such as its telecom arm.

A slowdown in the telecom market meant that there were no sales of telecom cables to companies wanting to connect the UK to continental Europe.

"In this difficult environment, we consider... the growth in our shuttle services turnover, as a satisfactory outcome for the quarter," said Mr Ponsolle.

The company does not give any profit figures when it reports interim results. In its preliminary results for 2000, the company reported operating profit of 208m compared to 203m for 1999.

Shares in the company had slipped one point to 72.75p at 1150 UK time (1050 GMT).

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See also:

19 Feb 01 | Business
Eurotunnel urges immigrant curbs
20 Nov 00 | Business
Eurotunnel drivers on strike
09 Feb 01 | Europe
UK and France strike asylum deal
24 Jul 00 | Business
Duty free hits Eurotunnel
15 Mar 99 | The Company File
Eurotunnel's first profit
16 Jan 01 | Business
Eurostar revenue rises
15 Mar 99 | The Company File
Tunnel vision: the Eurotunnel story
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