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Monday, 11 February, 2002, 16:45 GMT
Eurotunnel attacks state 'inaction'
Immigrants in France
Eurotunnel claims asylum seekers cost it 25m last year
Eurotunnel has attacked the UK and French governments for failing to act against asylum seekers who have disrupted its business, after reporting a loss of 132m for last year.

The problem is controlled, not resolved, and we remain vigilant

Richard Shirrefs
"The French and British governments refused to give us the necessary support in tackling the problem of asylum seekers," the firm's chairman Charles MacKay said.

Eurotunnel, reporting its profits for 2001, claimed asylum seekers caused a 20m business shortfall and an extra 5m was spent on security measures.

A slump in revenue from the telecoms sector hit income gained from leasing out cables that run through the tunnel.

Monday's statement also revealed that continuing interest payments on Eurotunnel's debts was its major cost.

Interest burden

While the company said it was sticking by its goal for core income to cover interest charges, Mr Mackay hinted the firm might not meet all the payments.

"It is still our goal, but it will be difficult," he said.

"Most analysts think we will not be able to cover our expenses until 2003."

Eurotunnel, which has a market capitalisation of about 1.3bn, has debts of 4.8bn, and analysts expect a debt restructuring some time this year.

Asylum claim

Eurotunnel has unsuccessfully campaigned to close down a refugee camp at Sangatte, northern France, which it says is used as a base by immigrants trying to illegally enter Britain through the tunnel.

"The problem is controlled, not resolved, and we remain vigilant," chief executive Richard Shirrefs said in a statement.

Eurotunnel's criticisms of the government come as police said they were searching for about 40 illegal immigrants who stowed away on a freight train through the tunnel on Sunday night.

The full-year results followed a trading statement on 22 January which showed turnover for 2001 fell 6% from last year to 564m ($800m).

Eurotunnel shares closed 3p lower at 60.25p in London on Monday.

The BBC's Mike Sergeant
"Eurotunnel has never been far from controversy"
See also:

22 Jan 02 | Business
Asylum seekers cost Eurotunnel 20m
20 Dec 01 | Business
Eurotunnel chief steps down
11 Sep 01 | Europe
Court rejects camp closure plea
23 Jul 01 | Business
Eurotunnel may miss break-even point
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