The Channel tunnel owner is pressing ahead with plans to pay a dividend despite the uncertainty surrounding the future of passenger rail operator Eurostar.
Shareholders such as hedge boss Sir Chris Hohn and Italian infrastructure giant Atlantia will share a multi million-pound payout from Getlink after freight traffic cushioned the company from the economic fallout of Covid.
Getlink, a separate company to Eurostar, said the rail operator had carried just 88,051 passengers in the first three months of the year compared with almost 2m in the same period of 2020.
Eurostar has sealed a £400m refinancing with its banks and shareholders, clearing a key hurdle as it fights for survival. The operator is in talks with the UK and French governments over additional support to tide it through until travel restrictions are lifted.
Getlink said the number of rail freight trains running under the Channel was down just 10pc, meaning total rail revenues only halved to €32.6m.
The company has about 200 passenger service staff on furlough schemes run by the UK and French governments. It expects to need them to return to work to cope with pent-up demand.
Shuttle services, which generate the biggest sales, were a third lower. Revenue from the company's own freight business, Europorte, was broadly flat at €31.9m.
Getlink's decision to pay a "token dividend", subject to approval at its annual meeting next week, followed the cancellation of shareholder payouts last year. The 5c a share dividend is far lower than the 35-40c paid to investors in the past.
The company said the "absence of visibility on the future decisions by governments regarding the pandemic and associated travel restrictions" meant it was unable to provide forecasts for 2021.
Yann Leriche, the chief executive, said: “The decrease in revenue reflects the travel restrictions put in place by the authorities and the adaptation of the freight market to the new post-Brexit customs formalities. Our teams are actively working for when the border reopens for tourists.”
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