February 18, 2016 / 6:34 AM / 3 years ago

Eurotunnel wants France, UK to pay migrant crisis bill

PARIS (Reuters) - Channel tunnel operator Eurotunnel (GETP.PA) said on Thursday it had asked the French and British governments to reimburse it 29 million euros ($32 million) mostly for revenue lost last year due to a migrant crisis at the French port of Calais.

An Eurotunnel freight shuttle exists the Channel Tunnel in Coquelles, near Calais, northern France, October 20, 2015. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol - RTS5A50

Eurotunnel made the request as it raised its 2015 dividend by 22 percent and forecast a further rise in profit this year and next, driven by an economic recovery in Europe.

“Business remains dynamic, led by growth in the British economy and signs of improvement in Europe,” Chief Executive Jacques Gounon said in a statement.

“Despite an uncertain global environment, the group remains confident in its ability to generate sustainable growth both in cross-Channel and rail freight activities.”

Eurotunnel carries Eurostar high-speed trains between Paris, Brussels and London, as well as shuttle trains containing passenger cars, coaches and freight trucks.

Thousands of migrants, fleeing war, political turmoil and poverty, are living in makeshift camps in and around Calais, making daily attempts to board lorries and trains heading to Britain where they hope to find work or claim asylum.

In mid-July, Eurotunnel had asked France and Britain for 10 million euros to cover costs tied to beefing up security to cope with the migrant crisis in the first-half of the year.. This sum is part of the 29 million euros in compensation Eurotunnel is asking for 2015.

Gounon however told reporters the migrant situation had improved since end-October thanks to quick government action with Britain funding fences and France increasing the police presence.

“Since Oct. 23, not a single migrant crossed the Channel tunnel,” he said.

Eurotunnel forecast earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of 560 million euros this year and 605 million in 2017 after it reached 542 million last year. This was slightly below the average estimate in a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S poll of 546 million for 2015.

Gounon said Eurotunnel had trimmed its forecast for 2016 EBITDA, which initially stood at 580 million, as it remained cautious due to persisting risks of terrorist attacks and migrant pressure.

Eurotunnel already reported a 5 percent rise in 2015 revenue to 1.222 billion euros.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Leigh Thomas

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