Eurotunnel reports first-half loss, cites insurance delays

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Eurotunnel, the company operating the tunnel link between Britain and France, said on Monday it suffered a 44.8-million-euro net loss in the first half, blaming blocked insurance compensation for a fire in 2008.

The loss, equivalent to 58 million dollars, followed an 8.0-million-euro shortfall in the first half of 2009.

"The result would have been better if compensation worth 48 million euros, to cover the September 2008 fire, had not been blocked since May 2009," said Eurotunnel chairman Jacques Gounon.

The delay followed a court action by Eurostar, which argued that its trains using the tunnel had also been victims of the fire.

Gounon estimated the consequences of the fire at nearly 300 million euros. The blaze caused the partial closure of the tunnel from September 11, 2008 to February 9, 2009.

Gounon said the material and operating losses were covered by insurance policies worth 900 million euros until September 2010.

"It's not the tunnel traffic that is putting us in the red, it's the insurance. This compensation is due us and I don't see why we haven't received it," he told journalists in a telephone conference.

Sales from freight and passenger traffic in the first half rose 22 percent to 331.3 million euros.

Eurotunnel last year turned a profit of 1.5 million euros, notably as it included in its accounting some 33 million euros that it planned to receive in the second half.

The same approach was not used in the first half of 2010.

"If we end up in the red in 2010, I will not feel responsible," Gounon asserted.

Eurotunnel shares were showing a loss of 1.64 percent to 5.83 euros in mid-morning trading in Paris on an overall stronger market.

© 2010 AFP

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