Ryanair positive after 19% rise in profits

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The Independent Online

The low-cost airline Ryanair said today its prospects appeared more positive than a year ago after it posted a 19 per cent rise in annual profits.

The low-cost airline Ryanair said today its prospects appeared more positive than a year ago after it posted a 19 per cent rise in annual profits.

The Dublin-based carrier - led by chief executive Michael O'Leary - exceeded forecasts with profits of 268.9 million euros (£184m) for the year to March 31.

It warned high fuel costs continued to be a treat to its business but added advance bookings for the summer months had been strong, allowing it to raise its forecast for annual passenger numbers to 35 million, up 27 per cent on this year.

Mr O'Leary said: "Our outlook for the coming for 12 months is more positive than it was this time last year."

He believed the airline had benefited from the imposition of higher fuel surcharges by rival airlines on short-haul routes. The company, founded 20 years ago, has also seen a number of European flag carriers reduce capacity on some of its markets.

As a result, Ryanair said average yields - income per passenger - improved by 2 per cent, against initial expectations and compared with a 14 per cent fall a year earlier.

Mr O'Leary added: "Clearly fuel costs remain high, and the market is volatile. Higher oil prices will continue to impact our cost base over the coming 12 months."

While the airline has not hedged its fuel position for the summer, it has bought 75 per cent of this winter's fuel requirement at rates of 47 US dollars a barrel.

Operating costs rose 25 per cent as a result of the higher fuel prices, which lifted to 265.3 million euros (£181.6 million) from 175 million euros (119.8 million) a year earlier. Staff costs rose to 141 million euros (£96.5 million) from 123.6 million euros (£84.6 million).

Passenger numbers stood at 27.6 million, helping annual revenues to rise 24 per cent to 1.07 billion euros (£732.3 million) and profits after tax reach 268.9 million euros (£184 million). Profits for the winter half-year period were up 33 per cent at 67.6 million euros (£46.5 million), the company added.

Last year Ryanair posted lower profits for the first time since the airline floated on the Irish Stock Exchange in 1997.

Mr O'Leary used today's results to continue his attack on airport operator BAA and in particular its plans to redevelop Stansted at a cost of "£4 billion".

He added: "If the BAA monopoly was broken up, and Stansted forced to compete with Gatwick and Heathrow, then low-cost efficient facilities would be developed with the co-operation of user airlines like Ryanair and easyJet.

"Instead we have the truly bizarre proposal that £4 billion be wasted by Stansted building facilities that its airlines unanimously oppose, with part of the cost to be subsidised by passengers at Gatwick and Heathrow."



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