, PARIS, March 13- Eurotunnel, which operates the undersea tunnel between France and England, reported on Thursday that it tripled net profit last year.
And for the first time the company, which has been through some bad times since it began operations 20 years ago this year, set targets for gross operating profit, giving estimates for this year and next.
Net profit last year totalled 101 million euros (84.6 million pounds, $141 million) from 32 million euros in 2012.
Chief executive Jacques Gounon told journalists: “For the first time in the history of Eurotunnel, we think that the situation of the group is altogether satisfactory.”
The latest net figure was boosted by a delayed tax factor of 81 million euros. So far Eurotunnel has never paid any profits tax.
Gross operating profit, a key measure of sales revenue relative to operating costs, fell by 2.0 percent to 449 million euros.
The sales figure, published previously, exceeded 1.0 billion euros for the first time, totalling 1.09 billion euros.
Gounon said in a statement: “In 2013, the Eurotunnel Group recorded another record year despite the highly competitive environment.
“In this year, the 20th anniversary of the Channel tunnel, the Group has set itself new targets for the creation of value, with an objective for EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) of more than 500 million euros in 2015.”
The board recommended raising the dividend payout to shareholders by 25.0 percent to 15 euro cents per share.
The group said that it expected its EBITDA figure to be 460 million euros this year.
Gounon said the group expected to pay tax from 2015, saying that this would be a sign that the company, which has accumulated losses for years, was getting onto a normal footing.
He said that the company had increased business in its two main activities of running high-speed trains to carry freight, and passengers, through the tunnel.
For the first time the company had transported more than 10 million passengers in the year.
The only part of the group to report a loss was the MyFerryLink, providing ferry services across the Channel between France and England and which made an operating loss of 22.0 million euros.
But Gounon said that this business was expected to be in profit from 2015. This year it would probably make an operating loss of about 15 million euros.