Ryanair posts record Christmas quarter, sees 'very robust' summer demand
By Conor Humphries
DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ryanair on Monday posted a record after-tax profit for its October-December quarter and said bookings for Easter and summer flights were "very robust", boosted by demand from Asian travellers and a strong U.S. dollar.
"Bookings are showing no signs of recession at this point in time," Chief Financial Officer Neil Sorahan told Reuters.
"We had record bookings in week two and week three of January, very robust demand into Easter and the summer without fare stimulation," he said.
Last week, rivals Wizz Air and EasyJet also reported strong summer bookings.
Ryanair, Europe's largest by passenger numbers, said it had earned 211 million euros ($229.40 million) in the three months ended Dec. 31, the third quarter of its financial year.
The after-tax profit numbers compared with a forecast of 200 million euros in a company poll of analysts and its previous record of 106 million euros in the final three months of 2017.
Sorahan would not reiterate a forecast made earlier in the month by Chief Executive Michael O'Leary that fares were likely to post annual high-single-digit percentage growth in the coming summer, saying only that he was "encouraged by bookings at this point."
Graphic: Record Christmas quarter performance https://www.reuters.com/graphics/RYANAIR-RESULTS/dwvkdaoxepm/chart.png
Ryanair reiterated its Jan. 4 forecast of an after-tax profit of between 1.325 billion and 1.425 billion euros for the year through March 31. That was an upgrade of an earlier forecast of 1 billion-1.2 billion euros.
Shares in the airline were down 1.1% at 15.36 euros at 0840 GMT but were up more than 25% since the start of the year.
"There is always a danger that the market is disappointed if it gets what it expects," Goodbody stockbrokers said in a note.
UK BOOKINGS IMPROVE
Demand weakness in the United Kingdom reported earlier in January has disappeared and may have been due to transport strikes in the country, O'Leary said in a video presentation.
"With Asian tourists now returning and a strong U.S. dollar encouraging Americans to explore Europe, we're seeing robust demand," O'Leary said.
Ryanair, unlike many airlines, kept its pilots and crew up-to-date with their flying hours during the pandemic to take advantage of the swift rebound and flew a record 38.4 million passengers in the final three months of 2022.
It expects to fly 168 million passengers in the year through March 31, well above its previous annual record of 149 million reached before the pandemic brought the travel industry to a standstill. Passenger numbers are set to hit 185 million in the next financial year, O'Leary said.
($1 = 0.9198 euros)
(Writing by Conor Humphries; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)