Ryanair to be debt free by March

RYANAIR is generating so much cash that it is on course to be totally debt free by the end of March — clearing €709 million of debt in 12 months.

On the back of a strong set of second-quarter and half-year figures published yesterday, the airline said that after-tax profit for the 12 months to the end of next March should now come in at €440m; €40m — or 10% — more than previously anticipated. The airline made an after-tax profit of €401m in its last full-year. Ryanair’s deputy chief executive and chief operating officer, Michael Cawley, added that if growth continues, the company should be on course to become totally debt free by the end of its current financial year. Since last March, Ryanair has lowered its net debt levels from €709m to €372m.

Yesterday’s figures showed a year-on-year increase of 24% in half-year revenues to €2.71 billion, and 20% increases in adjusted after-tax profits (to €543.5m) and adjusted basic earnings per share (to 36.62c). Pre-tax profits, for the six months to the end of September, were up from €482.5m to just under €620m.

Ryanair boss, Michael O’Leary, recently spoke about the airline’s long-term expansion plans — including doubling passenger numbers to around 130 million people per year and boosting its fleet to around 200 aircraft. Speaking in Dublin yesterday, Mr Cawley reiterated that while a fleet expansion deal has been agreed with Chinese aircraft maker, Comac, a second special dividend payment is still likely to be paid to shareholders in the next year and a half, while by that time passenger numbers should be up to 79 million per year. Ryanair shares rose 5.1% yesterday.

Mr Cawley added that Ryanair would still be willing to sell its 29% stake in Aer Lingus, if the right offer was made but said that Etihad (which has been linked with a purchase of the Government’s 25% Aer Lingus stake) making a move for Ryanair’s share is “unlikely”.

Ryanair is also set to continue to pursue its call for an egm of Aer Lingus shareholders — over the Deloitte/McCann Fitzgerald report into Aer Lingus’ recent €30m “leave and rehire” revenue penalty.

As previously reported, Ryanair also wants Aer Lingus to pay a once-off special dividend of around €110m to its shareholders.

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