Ryanair's O'Leary on cloud nine after profits rise

Ryanair's fuel bills may be rising, but so are fares and passenger numbers. The budget airline has increased profits by 10% to €596m in the first half.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
It’s been an uplifting six months for Ryanair. Passenger numbers have soared post-Olympics and, with its competitors cranking up fares to counteract the effects of fuel bill rises, Ryanair has been able to follow suit. Although, by keeping price rises to just 6%, CEO O’Leary has made sure that Ryanair is still one of the cheapest - if not the most cheerful - ways to fly. ‘Most of our competitors are increasing fares by more than us,’ he says. ‘The price gap between us and the competition is getting wider.’

In the six months to the end of September, net profit at the low-frills airline hit €596m (£477m), up 10% on €544m over the same period last year. Revenues are up 15% to €3.1bn. Recession is a definite growth driver, says O’Leary: ‘Benefitting from austerity across Europe, we’ve had very strong traffic growth.’

That’s not to say there aren’t a few flies in the ointment. The sky-high price of oil has been a real issue for airlines everywhere. Ryanair’s aviation fuel bill rose 24% in the last six months to top €218m. That takes the average cost per barrel to $98 from $83 in the previous half. And then there’s the raft of taxes, from air passenger duty to airport levies, bemoaned by airline chiefs across the land.

But Ryanair is weathering the storm rather better than many of its competitors. It is flush with cash: €3.9bn now sits on the balance sheet, an all-time record for the carrier. And it is now the world’s seventh largest airline with 298 Boeing 737-800s. The company is still growing too, taking delivery of 11 new aircraft this winter, not to mention its €700m takeover play for Aer Lingus, which is awaiting the verdict from EU regulators. O’Leary insists it’s a done deal, Indeed, the tone of Ryanair’s statement that, ‘Further airline failures and consolidation are inevitable,’ has a certain lip-smacking anticipation about it. And there's plenty of cash left in the kitty for further acquisitions too.

All in all, an upbeat set of results from Ryanair, which has raised its full-year profit forecast to €490m-€520m, up from €400m-€440m. Good news for Ryanair’s shareholders: Christmas will come early with a one-off dividend of €489m on November 30.  

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