European budget airline Ryanair posted its first fall in full-year net profit in five years, as the company tackled a tough environment and new larger planes giving it more seats to sell in the coming year.
Profits fell 8 percent to 523 million euros ($717 million) from 569 million euros, according to the Irish company's statement on Monday, with CEO Michael O'Leary calling it "disappointing". His colleague Howard Millar, the chief financial officer at Ryanair, told CNBC that warm weather last summer meant many holiday makers stayed at home and a weak sterling currency also weighed on profits.
The airline has since launched more aggressive pricing and saw traffic rise 4 percent in the second half of the last year. Ancillary revenues - incomings from sources that are not ticket sales - grew 17 percent last year, it added, and now accounts for 25 percent of total revenues.
Millar said that the company is now planning to grow in the euro zone from 80 million to 110 million passengers a year by 2018 and it has witnessed a "very strong rise in profitability in first two quarters of this year."
Shares of the airline rose over 5 percent at the session on Monday. Analysts at Citi said that the results were "slightly better than expected" and believed its guidance for the forthcoming year was "conservative." Traders were also buoyed by the company stating it was committed to a further 500 million euro special dividend, although this is subject to shareholder approval.
In February, O'Leary told an Irish Hotels Federation conference that it was considering offering a transatlantic service. However, Millar told CNBC Monday that there were "no immediate plans for a long-haul operation" adding that the company is remaining firmly focused on Europe and short-haul flights. Millar also said that the growth he promised would be found by legacy carriers reducing their capacity at European airports, meaning low-fare carriers - like Ryanair - can continue to penetrate this market.
In its outlook, it expected traffic for next year to grow by 4 percent with new routes and capacity growth. However, it said in Monday's press release that it remains "very cautious" about its guidance for the second half of the year. This is due to the 6 percent capacity growth it has committed to with the 180 new aircraft it has ordered. Additionally, it expects another weak price environment for the winter months, suggesting that fares could fall by as much as 6 percent to 8 percent.
"We expect this combination of a strong (first half), but a weaker (second half) will generate a significant rise in after tax profits to a range of between 580 million euros to 620 million euros, although this guidance is heavily qualified by (the second half) yield outturn, over which we currently have zero visibility," it said in Monday's announcement.