Ryanair Q1 Profit Falls 85% to €21m Fuel Up 93% as Traffic Grows 19% to 15m
Ryanair, Europe’s largest low fares airline, today (28 July) announced a Q1 profit of €21m down €118m (or 85%) as fuel costs almost doubled and yields fell due to the absence of Easter in this quarter and its presence in the prior year comparable. Despite the absence of Easter, traffic grew by 19% to 15m, as average fares (incl. bag charges) fell by 8% to €42, while total revenues grew 12% to €777m. Unit costs excluding fuel fell by 6%, including fuel they increased by 18%, due to higher oil prices and longer sector lengths.
Summary Table of Results (IFRS) - in Euro
Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary said:
“Trading conditions have been difficult in Q1 as we suffered the loss of Easter and the impact of higher fuel prices. Oil prices almost doubled in Q1 from $61 to $117 (per barrel) as our fuel bill rose 93% to €367m. Fuel now represents almost 50% of our total operating costs compared to 36% last year.
Yields fell by 8%, as we opened new routes and bases and suffered the absence of Easter in the quarter which distorts the prior year comparables. Yields were also impacted by a reduction in checked in baggage penetration rates as more passengers switch to web check-in and carry on baggage facilities. Traffic grew by 19% to 15m, whilst load factors at 81% were almost in line with Q1 last year despite the absence of Easter. Ancillary revenues grew by 25%, again faster than the rate of traffic growth, and we expect this to continue for the remainder of the year. Passengers will shortly be able to use their mobile phones and Blackberry’s on 10 Dublin based aircraft in a trial test which will expand to almost 40 aircraft by the year end.
We have taken advantage of the recent weakness in oil prices and are now hedged 90% for September at $129 per barrel, 80% for Q3 at $124 per barrel, but are unhedged for Q4. We continue to believe that oil prices remain subject to irrational exuberance. While many of our high fare competitors continue to increase fuel surcharges, Ryanair remains committed to our guarantee of no fuel surcharges – ever. We will continue to absorb higher oil costs, even if it means short-term losses, while we continue to deliver Europe’s guaranteed lowest fares to our 58 million passengers.
Unit costs excluding fuel fell by 6%, better than we previously expected. Including fuel unit costs rose 18%. We have responded to these much higher oil prices by aggressively tackling costs in all other areas. In the last quarter we have added cheaper, fuel efficient aircraft. We have implemented a company wide pay freeze and redundancies in our Dublin Call Centre. We have renegotiated many of our airport maintenance and handling contracts and we plan to introduce check-in kiosks in October at our main bases in Dublin and Stansted to further reduce airport staff and handling costs. The increased discretionary charges for baggage and airport check-in have encouraged more passengers to use web check-in and carry-on luggage and this is helping to significantly reduce our handling costs.
We have recently announced capacity reductions for the coming winter at our two highest cost airports in Stansted (15 aircraft grounded) and Dublin (4 aircraft) where regulatory failure has allowed these monopolies to further increase their already high airport charges. These high costs make it more profitable to ground some aircraft rather than fly them at Dublin and Stansted this winter. Despite these cutbacks, Ryanair’s traffic will still grow by approx. 9% this winter as we switch route and capacity growth to lower cost airports and bases. Accordingly, passenger volumes for the year will grow by 14% to 58m, slightly lower than the 16% previously guided.
The demise of low fare air travel is again being predicted by high fare airlines like BA and others who are still losing shorthaul traffic to Ryanair. Higher oil prices won’t end low fare air travel, it just increases the attraction of Ryanair’s guaranteed lowest fares, as consumers become more price sensitive and switch away from high fare/fuel surcharging airlines like BA. Higher oil prices will speed up the decline of high fare shorthaul travel this winter as many European airlines consolidate or go bust. We believe that oil prices of approx. $130 per barrel are unsustainable over the medium term, but we don’t know when they are going to fall. The airline industry is cyclical, and this downturn will provide enormous opportunities for strong, well financed airlines, such as Ryanair to grow.
The outlook for the remainder of the fiscal year which is entirely dependent on fares and fuel prices remains poor. The emerging economic recession in the UK and Ireland caused by the global credit crisis and high oil prices means that consumer confidence is plummeting, and we believe this will have an adverse impact on fares for the rest of the year. We will respond as always with lower fares and aggressive pricing to keep people flying and maintain our high load factors. We now believe that our average fares for the year may fall by as much as 5% if European airfares plunge this winter. Ryanair will lead this downward pricing at a time when most of our competitors are hoping to raise fares and fuel surcharges. The market this winter will be heavily impacted by the timing and scale of EU airline bankruptcies and consolidations which are inevitable at these higher oil prices. Ryanair’s better than anticipated savings which will flow from capacity and cost reductions already achieved will partly offset these lower yields. On the basis of our existing fuel hedges, Q4 oil prices at approx. $130 per barrel, and average fares falling by 5% for the full year, we expect to record a full year result of between breakeven and a loss of €60m.
The capacity reductions which will ensue from this winter’s wave of airline bankruptcies and consolidations will create more opportunities for Ryanair to grow. When oil prices fall significantly (as we believe they will over the medium term) then our earnings should rebound strongly. We have one of the strongest Balance Sheets in the industry and the business continues to be strongly cash generative with over €2.2bn in cash. With the lowest fares and lowest cost base in the industry Ryanair is the best positioned airline In Europe to take advantage of the opportunities that these very difficult trading conditions will create.
Quarter end June 2008, excludes exceptional costs of i) Accelerated Depreciation of €17.9m on 15 aircraft to be disposed in 2009/10 and, ii) a €93.6m write down of our stake in Aer Lingus.