Love it or hate it, you can't argue with Ryanair's flair for making money. The low-cost airline has just reported a pre-tax profit of €341m for the year to March, more than three times as much as it made in the previous year. OK, so this was before the disastrous delays caused by the ash cloud, which will shave some €50m off this year's profits. But it's still a stark contrast with some of its competitors' woes; not least poor old BA, of course, which is now on the third day of its latest strike, with more to come...
Ryanair said today that its passenger numbers were up a remarkable 14% last year: 67m people enjoyed its low-cost charms, which is pretty good going for a year some have described as the industry's toughest ever. Total revenues rose to €2.99bn - and with fuel costs also down nearly 30% on the previous year, this more than trebled underlying profits. And it's not finished there: Ryanair said today that it's expecting passenger number to rise a further 11% this year, which should mean another double-digit profit rise in the current year. In fact, it's so confident that it's planning to shell out €500m to its delighted shareholders as a special divi (having decided not to buy new planes after all).
After finishing the previous year €180m in the red - albeit thanks largely to a big write-down in the value of its stake in Aer Lingus (whose share price tanked after Ryanair failed in a bid to buy it) - that's quite a recovery. But it's all the more impressive when you consider how the industry as a whole has been doing. The recession-related drop in tourism (particularly in Ireland, according to Ryanair) and more recently the ash cloud disruption have hammered all the major carriers, most of whom have been reporting huge losses. Air France/ KLM and BA have suffered the most, racking up losses of £2bn - and given the latter is currently facing up to the grim prospect of crippling strikes all summer, its chances of a similarly rapid recovery are non-existent.
We know that Ryanair divides opinion among MT readers. Some hate its almost disdainful attitude to customer service; others love its prices and the convenience of its extensive network. But whatever your view, there's one thing that can't be denied, on the basis of these numbers: its model works, and is holding up better than pretty much any other major airline. It's already boasting about taking customers from BA - and it's going to keep doing so until the UK carrier gets its act together and stops these self-destructive strikes.
In today's bulletin:
Hayward gaffe fuels BP's woes as shares plunge 15%
Ryanair back in the black as passsenger numbers soar 14%
Editor's blog: Spitting in the face of public servants
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