Ryanair set to return €1bn to shareholders

Ryanair is to return up to €1bn to shareholders over the coming two years, via two separate share buy-back programmes or a special dividend payout.

The low fares airline’s senior management outlined the plans at an investor conference in London, yesterday.

It said that “at least €400m” would be realised via share buy-backs, to be completed during Ryanair’s current financial year, which runs up to the end of next March.

A further €600m would come via either special dividends or further share buy-backs, it added, probably during the following financial year; subject to current fuel, yields and profitability trends continuing.

Ryanair also told analysts and major shareholders at yesterday’s meeting — the airline is planning a second investor conference, in New York next Tuesday, for North American analysts and investors — that it hopes to increase its annual growth rate by 2% — from 5% to 7% — “over the coming years”.

The airline is targeting a significant increase in yearly passenger numbers — to 110 million — by March 2019; 10% up on its initial estimates for that timeframe.

Last year, Ryanair carried just over 79 million passengers. It is also planning another 200 route launches in the coming years.

Ryanair signed off on its fleet expansion deal with Boeing on Wednesday, after getting formal shareholder approval a day earlier for the $15.6bn purchase of 175 new aircraft. Chief executive Michael O’Leary called that deal the biggest capital purchase ever undertaken by an Irish company, and promptly said he was considering buying another 200 planes from Boeing before the end of the year.

Ryanair was one of the few Irish stocks on the rise yesterday, on what was a pretty lacklustre day for the Iseq, following moderate growth for much of the week.

The low-fares airline finished the day up by just over 1.2%, at €7.06 per share, and was joined by Irish Continental Group, Independent News & Media, Donegal Creameries, Origin Enterprises, and biotech firm, Elan — which was up by over 4% to €10.53 — in injecting some positivity to the Dublin exchange, which was slightly down overall.

Mr O’Leary said this week that the new Boeing deal would significantly reward Ryanair’s shareholders, with bigger aircraft and lower costs per seats resulting in increased investor returns.

He also said that it would create another 3,500 jobs at the airline.

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