EasyJet soars as Britons flee freezing weather

Three of this year’s best performing stocks — easyJet, Booker, and Domino’s Pizza — will post updates this week in what should be a quiet post-Easter period for corporate news.

EasyJet soars as Britons flee freezing weather

Fuller planes of passengers fleeing Britain’s freezing weather are expected to boost figures from budget airline easyJet when it updates on trading on Friday.

The group — which recently entered the FTSE 100 Index — is expected to report good momentum, with analysts at Numis Securities forecasting a “positive pricing environment”.

EasyJet’s load factor — the measure of how full its planes are — improved to 88.2% in the 12 months to the end of February, ahead of the 87.8% rate seen a year earlier. Passenger numbers were also up 7% to almost 60m over that period.

The carrier has guided the City to expect a loss of £50m (€58.9m) to £75m over the six months to the end of March, compared with the £112m loss reported a year earlier. Airlines traditionally report losses over the weaker winter period.

EasyJet was promoted to the blue- chip index last month after a strong run for its shares, which are up 40% so far this year.

It has consistently beaten City expectations for profits but a long- running war of words with founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou has overshadowed some of its recent success.

Stelios, whose family holds about 36% of the company’s shares, has been unhappy at plans to place a large order for a fleet of more fuel- efficient aircraft.

Britons’ appetite for fast food is expected to continue driving growth at pizza delivery chain Domino’s, which updates on trading for the first three months of the year on Thursday.

While heavy snowfall affected its performance, Domino’s said it made a “solid” start in the first seven weeks of 2013, with like-for-like sales in the UK stores up by 1.6%. The chain said that would have been 2.6% growth without the snow.

Analysts at Numis said: “We expect like-for-like (LFL) sales to have picked up over the subsequent six weeks, aided by half-term and cold weather. Over the full year, LFL sales should benefit from higher advertising, smarter marketing and further new product launches.”

Numis sees Domino’s making pre-tax profits of £50.5m for the year to the end of December, up from £46.7m in 2012.

Fourth-quarter results from Booker Group will shine a light on recent trading as the cash and carry chain celebrates approval for its takeover of smaller rival Makro.

Booker was handed a boost recently when the Competition Commission provisionally approved its acquisition of the 30-store chain.

Booker supplies nearly half a million businesses including corner shops, pubs, and restaurants from its 172 sites across the UK. The commission ruled that the enlarged group will “continue to face sufficient competition from other wholesalers”.

On Thursday the chain reports on trading for the three months to the end of March, ahead of its release of full-year earnings expected in May.

Analysts expect the chain to post full-year pre-tax profits of £95.7m, according to a consensus of 10 analysts supplied by the company. That compares with £90.8m earned a year earlier.

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