Recession bites Ryanair profits, analysts forecast revenues to slip 29%


DUBLIN — Ryanair, Europe’s biggest budget airline, undershot analyst forecasts with a profit slide of 29 percent in the three months to June as it grappled with a toxic mix of austerity, recession and stubbornly high fuel prices. The Dublin-based airline, famous for its no-frills service, said the weak economic outlook for Europe would continue to restrain fare growth for the rest of the year, but maintained its forecast of a profit of between 400 million euros (US$494.80 million) and 440 million for the year to March. “Austerity is biting. There is just less money around,” said Chief Financial Officer Howard Millar. “There are no particular bright or black spots.”

Net profit for three months to June was 99 million euros, compared with a forecast of 123 million by four analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. Earnings per share were 6.9 euro cents in the quarter, compared to an average analyst forecast of 9 cents.

The airline, which has a lower cost base than many of its competitors, said it had hedged 90 percent of its fuel needs for the year to March at approximately US$1,000 per ton, up 21 percent on last year. But it said the fuel price savings would be more than offset by a lower euro to dollar exchange rate. Average fares were up 4 percent, in line with mid-single digit growth forecast by the airline in May, and were on track for average growth of around 3 percent in the year to March, Millar said.

The airline does not expect to change plans to ground 80 of its 270 planes over the winter due to high fuel costs, Millar said.

“With oil prices at US$100 per barrel it really doesn’t makes sense to fly these aircraft,” Millar said. “The more you fly, the more you lose.” Ryanair’s share price closed at 3.92 euros on Friday, up 7.5 percent since the start of the year, compared to a rise of 8.4 percent in the broader Irish market. Poor weather in the United Kingdom boosted sales at budget rival easyJet PLC in the three months through June, pushing revenues up by 10.5 percent.