Irish Continental Group has reported pre-tax profits of €21m for 2012, down from the level of €26.4m reported in 2011.

The company said it remained cautious about the emerging evidence of an improvement in the Irish economy, especially in relation to freight capacity.

ICG said its revenues for the year rose by 1.7% to €256.1m from €251.7m, while it made a gain of €21m on the sale of its subsidiary Feederlink.

In its results statement, ICG said it witnessed continued economic weakness last year, which affected both consumer travel and import-export trade flows, the two areas of economic interest for the group.

Passenger numbers for the year rose by 1.1% to 1.543 million, while the number of cars it carried on its ferries inched 0.3% higher to 353,800.

But Roll-On, Roll-Off freight declined by 5.6% while container freight also fell by 5.7%.

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ICG's ferries division saw a 2.9% increase in revenues to €160m, while operating profit moved marginally higher to €22.4m from €22m. Fuel costs for the year rose by almost 13% to €39.3m.

It noted that its Irish Sea car and passenger markets continued to be difficult, with Britain - its key source market for Irish Sea business - proving to be ''particularly challenging'' for it.

But it also saw a ''modest gain'' on its Ireland-France routes, despite extra capacity introduced by one competitor.

In freight, ICG said that the Irish RORO market remained challenging with overall volumes marginally lower than 2011.

It said overcapacity still exists especially on the longer sea routes, adding that this is unsustainable at current market demand.

After the sale of Feederlink, the group's container and terminal division now consists of Eurcon's intermodal freight services and its container terminals in Dublin and Belfast.

Revenue in the division was flat at €97.4m while operating profits fell by 19.6% to €4.1m mainly due to higher fuel costs.

The company said that containers handled at the group's terminals in Dublin and London were down 2.4% to 182,300 lifts.

''These are resilient results in the face of a challenging economic background,'' commented the company's chairman John B McGuckian.

''There is now some emerging evident of an improvement in the Irish economic climate, but we remain cautious, particularly in relation to freight capacity,'' he cautioned.