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16/10/10 Success of Fastnet Line exceeds expectations
By Leo McMahon, Southern Star

FASTNET Line, which has exceeded all expectations in passenger numbers and freight traffic in its first year of business with the Cork-Swansea ferry Julia and brought some much needed good news for the recession-hit region, launched its Business Expansion Scheme (BES) on Monday at the Custom House, Cork.

The company, which has huge support from the West Cork area, aims to raise up to €1,372,000 in ordinary shares to ensure working capital remains in place to increase sales development in 2011 and beyond. Persons who invest between €5,000 and €150,000 by December 31st, will be able to claim tax relief in the 2010 tax year.

Deduct the cost

As outlined in the 24-page information memorandum, the Scheme of Relief will enable individuals to deduct the cost of their qualifying investment from their total income for tax purposes, thereby obtaining relief at the their highest marginal rates of tax. The return on investment per BES shares will be based on the open market value of these after five and a half years and aims to yield a maximum return of 15% on the basis that the performance targets of Fastnet Line Operators Ltd are achieved.

Fastnet Line chairman Conor Buckley thanked all shareholders and supporters to date for their hard work, determination and passion for a service which, with 70,000 to date, had exceeded initial passenger numbers by over 10% each month since its introduction on March 10th. It had re-established commercial freight traffic between the south of Ireland and the UK, created 131 sustainable jobs and restored over €40 million to the Munster economy.

All of this, he said, was proof positive that the demand existed and looking ahead, it was imperative to ensure it was fully capitalised, not just for paying back investments in five years time but also to possibly acquiring a new ship and further development.

Access vital

‘We can’t have trade or tourists without access and the future of the region depends on this key infrastructure, which we hope, will bring over 100,000 UK visitors to Munster every year so we are determined to make this scheme a success,’ said Mr Buckley. Calling on business people in the region to support it, he stated: ‘It’s fair to say that almost every business owner in the region has witnessed an increase in their bottom line since the re-instatement of the ferry service despite the poor economic climate, and now is the time to secure this success while sheltering personal tax liability.’

The memorandum, he continued, was based on actual figures and had undergone due diligence examination by Enterprise Ireland. He acknowledged the input of Roberts Nathan, auditors and accountants and McGuire Desmond solicitors and praised the Fastnet Line management team and crew of Julia.

Congratulations and support on behalf of the Port of Cork Co was expressed by its commercial manager Captain Michael McCarthy who paid tribute to West Cork Tourism Co-op, investors on both sides of the Irish Sea and the Fastnet management team of which Paul O’Brien is general manager and Philip Jones is chief executive.

Several leading business people from Co Cork and beyond attended the launch of the BES Ordinary Shares memorandum launch and viewed a new DVD on the success to date of the Julia which has capacity for 1,860 passengers, 440 cars, 30 freight vehicles and has 300 cabins for the ten-hour crossing.