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Ryanair Posts Quarterly Profit Gain, Raises Guidance

Ryanair, Europe's biggest low-fare airline, said net profit rose 30% to 48 million euros ($62.21 million) for the three months ended Dec. 31, compared to the year-ago period, and announced it’s upping the company’s guidance for the full year.

The company said it now expects to earn 390 million euros ($505.44 million) for the fiscal year ending March, up from previous guidance of 350 million euros ($453.6 million). The strong results come amidst high fuel costs and tightened airport security and beat expectations of analysts polled by Reuters.

Ryanair flew 10.25 million passengers in the fiscal third quarter, which is up 19% from a year earlier. The number of seats filled (load factor) averaged 82% in the period compared with 84% a year earlier. Average fares, including baggage fees were up 7% for the same comparison period.

“This exceptional 30% increase in third-quarter profit during a period of higher oil prices, intense competition, and 21% seat capacity growth demonstrates, yet again, the robustness of Ryanair's lowest fare model,” said Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary in a company press release Monday.

Operating expenses increased 35% with higher fuel costs cutting into profit during the recent period of high fuel costs since the summer 2006, shortly before the airline hedged its fuel needs for the quarter. The airline spent 174.9 million euros ($226.67 million) on fuel in the period, 52% more than a year earlier.

Earnings per share were up nearly 30% to 4.76 euro cents a share for the third-quarter compared to the same period last year.