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Ryanair posts weakest annual profits in four years

Reuters with CNBC.com
Key Points
  • The airline posted a profit after tax for its financial year to March 31 – excluding startup losses at its Laudamotion unit - of 1.02 billion euros ($1.14 billion), down from 1.45 billion euros in the previous year.
  • The company had forecast a profit of between 1 billion euros and 1.1 billion euros, and a company poll of over 10 analysts published ahead of the release had forecast 1.03 billion euros.
Niall Carson | PA Images | Getty Images

Ryanair posted its weakest annual profit in four years on Monday and said earnings could fall further next year as Europe's largest low-cost carrier grapples with overcapacity, Brexit and delays in delivery of the Boeing 737 Max.

The airline posted a profit after tax for its financial year to March 31 – excluding startup losses at its Laudamotion unit - of 1.02 billion euros ($1.14 billion), down from 1.45 billion euros in the previous year.

The company had forecast a profit of between 1 billion euros and 1.1 billion euros, and a company poll of over 10 analysts published ahead of the release had forecast 1.03 billion euros.

Profit for the year to March 31, 2020 including Lauda could be between 750 million euros and 950 million euros, it said. Profit including Lauda's exceptional losses this year was 880 million euros.

Ryanair said its fares for six months to the end of September were lower than last year and expected the trend to continue, although it said it had no visibility for the second half of its financial year.

However, CFO Neil Sorahan told CNBC's "Squawk Box Europe" on Monday that the business was in a good position, adding that he saw opportunities arising from the tough market conditions.

VIDEO1:3501:35
Boeing 737 Max will be a phenomenal aircraft, Ryanair CFO says

"I would anticipate that pricing will remain soft for the coming months, and that will clearly lead to more opportunities on the consolidation front as more airlines now – with the higher fuel price and weaker fares – find themselves in difficulties over the next number of months," he said.

Sorahan added that Ryanair was seeking compensation from Boeing over its 737 Max aircraft, which has been grounded globally since March, when an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed and killed all 157 on board. It came just five months after a fatal Lion Air crash involving the same Boeing model.

"We have a lot of confidence that this aircraft, when it does come back to service, will be a phenomenal aircraft," Sorahan said. "(But the delay) has cost us about 1 million customers, we've cancelled five lines of flying we have flagged that we will want compensation with the manufacturer… that conversation will take place but in the grand scale of our numbers it's not hugely material."

"We have a long relationship with them, so I have every confidence we'll get somewhere," he added.

VIDEO3:4703:47
In a difficult operating environment for all airlines, analyst says

Several rivals in recent weeks have warned of a worse trading environment – partly due to overcapacity and partly because European travellers are holding off booking their summer holidays for fear of how the Brexit process will pan out.

Ryanair's shares closed on Friday at 10.81 euros, down over 40 percent from a peak of 19.39 euros 18 months ago, before the airline was hit by a wave of industrial unrest, weakness in European short-haul fares and the grounding of the Max.

Ryanair had cut its profit forecast for the year to March 2019 by around a fifth in two profit warnings between October and January, blaming strikes, higher oil prices and overcapacity in Europe.