Ryanair (Dublin) has announced a fiscal first quarter (Q1) net profit of €197 million ($264.1 million), an increase of 152% over last year.
The ultra low-fare airline cautioned that this result was distorted by the timing of a very strong Easter in Q1 with no holiday period in the prior year comparable. Traffic grew to 24.3 million as load factors rose by 4% points to 86%. Average fare rose by 9%, boosted by a strong Easter period, while total revenues were up 11% to €1.496 billion. Unit costs fell by 2%, excluding fuel they rose by 1%.
Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary said:
“Q1 profits were boosted by a strong Easter (but are somewhat distorted by the absence of Easter on the prior year Q1). The earlier launch of our summer schedule and actively raising our forward bookings has delivered a 4% increase in load factor to 86% and enabled us to better manage close-in yields. Ancillary Revenues rose 4% in line with traffic growth, as airport and baggage fee reductions were offset by the rising uptake of allocated seating.“
New Routes and Bases.
Our four new bases at Athens, Brussels, Lisbon and Rome are performing strongly, as customers switch to Ryanair’s lower fares and our industry leading customer service. Our strategy to raise forward bookings continues to drive higher load factors and we expect to release our summer 2015 schedule in mid-September, some 3 months earlier than last year.
This winter we will open four new bases in Cologne, Gdansk, Warsaw and Glasgow (Intl.) as well as substantially increasing new routes and frequencies at Stansted and Dublin as we invest heavily in our network to build schedules on key city pairs to make them more attractive for business customers.
We are overrun with growth offers from primary European airports whose incumbent flag and regional carriers continue to cut capacity and traffic. These new airports along with our existing 69 bases offer Ryanair significant growth opportunities as the first of our 180 new Boeing order delivers this September. These new aircraft, with the benefit of the much weaker US$, will drive significant cost efficiencies over the next 5 years.
Customer Experience Improvement.
Our “Always Getting Better” program has delivered significant improvement to the customer experience. In addition to the initiatives launched last September which included allocated seating, free second carry-on bags, and an easier to use website with a “fare finder” facility, we launched our family product in June. In July we released our industry leading mobile app (including mobile boarding passes) which has been very positively reviewed by independent commentators and our customers and has reached 1m downloads in the 10 days since its release. In September we will launch Ryanair’s business service which will include same day flight changes, bigger bag allowances, premium seat allocation, and fast-track through security at many Ryanair airports. This new service along with our new routes, improved schedules and wider GDS distribution, will make Ryanair’s low fares much more accessible to, and attractive for business customers. We will continue this winter to rapidly develop both our website and mobile platform to deliver more innovative features and services in addition to the lowest fares to our customers.
We are 90% hedged for FY15 at approx. $96 p.bl, which will deliver savings of €50m this year at current market rates. This is lower than the €70m previously guided due to increased volumes in H2. We have also hedged 55% of our H1 FY16 fuel needs at approx. $95 p.bl and weaker US$ which will deliver a 2% fall in our unit fuel cost at current market rates.
The BBB+ rating awarded by S&P and Fitch makes Ryanair the highest rated airline in the world. This rating reflects the strength of our Balance Sheet and our highly cash generative business model and enabled us in June to issue our first €850m unsecured Eurobond at a coupon of 1.875% fixed for 7 years. This attractively priced financing (which was 7 times oversubscribed) will further reduce our aircraft ownership costs over the next 5 years.
In FY14 we completed €482m of share buybacks as part of our commitment to return €1 billion to shareholders over a 2 year period. We now plan to return another €520m via a special dividend of 37.50 cents per ordinary share (subject to AGM approval) to be paid in Q4 FY15. This brings the total returns to shareholders since 2008 to over €2.5bn which is more than 4 times the €585m originally raised from shareholders since our 1997 IPO.
Based on these Q1 results and our strong forward bookings it is clear that we are on track to deliver a strong H1, during which traffic will grow by 3%, and fares will rise by 6% subject to late booking fares in Aug. and Sept. However we would strongly caution both analysts and investors against any irrational exuberance in what continues to be a difficult economic environment, with some company-specific challenges in H2.
We expect H2 to be characterized by a much softer pricing environment as many competitors are lowering fares, partly in response to Ryanair’s strong forward bookings. Added to this Ryanair will aggressively raise capacity this winter by 8% (7% in Q3 and 10% in Q4) to take advantage of growth discounts and build out business friendly frequencies from Dublin and Stansted in particular. These initiatives will inevitably put downward pressure on fares and (mindful of last winter’s weak pricing environment) we continue to expect H2 yields to fall by between 6% to 8% which will result in full year yields rising by only 2%. Unit costs (ex-fuel) for FY15 will rise by approx. 4%, which is slightly better than the 5% increase we originally guided, due to higher H2 traffic volumes which will be positive for unit costs.
In summary, we now expect full year traffic to grow by 5% to 86m. This increased traffic and higher load factors, combined with a slightly improved performance on unit costs allows us to cautiously raise our full year profit after tax guidance (from the previous range €580m to €620m) to a range of €620m to €650m. However this guidance, which is about a 21% rise over last year’s net profit, is heavily, reliant upon the final outturn for H2 yields over which we currently have zero visibility”.
Copyright Photo: Keith Burton/AirlinersGallery.com. Boeing 737-8AS EI-CSW (msn 29935) in the old small-titled 1994 livery arrives at Stansted Airport near London.