Michael O’Leary cautionary on Ryanair financial growth

Ryanair’s financial growth plans continue to look shaky, with the airline’s management telling investors its current year progress could be hampered by lower fares and further potential global unrest.

The airline has continued to stick with the growth forecast it made in May — namely, for net profits of €1.375bn to €1.425bn for the 12 months to the end of next March.

However, chief executive Michael O’Leary reiterated a cautionary tone when addressing shareholders at the company’s AGM in Dublin yesterday. The airline made a net profit of €1.242bn in its last financial year.

Ryanair has been cutting fares as a way of tempting passengers who may be wary of flying since a number of high-profile terrorist attacks in mainland Europe over the past 12 months.

The airline expects average winter fares to fall by 10% to 12% (over the six months to next March) and Mr O’Leary has said that if they fall by more than 12% management may need to review its annual guidance.

He said, yesterday, that the guidance remains a “cautious” one and is “subject to downward pressure”.

Ryanair’s chief financial officer Neil Sorahan said after the AGM that if Europe were to see more terrorist attacks it would pose a “downward risk” to its annual growth forecasts.

Ryanair also yesterday maintained its calls for the European Commission to take action preventing French air traffic controller unions striking and to allow other air traffic controllers in Europe to operate overflights while unions strike.

Latest strike action, the 14th this year, has forced Ryanair to cancel 94 flights yesterday and today.

The airline called the French ATC union move “reprehensible” and “selfish”, saying the unions are using strikes as “a first weapon rather than a last resort”.

Ryanair’s share price is down around 16% since the start of the year.

It was stagnant at just over €13 yesterday.

Last week, Davy Stockbrokers raised its 12-month share price target for Ryanair to €16, saying there is scope for the stock to rise as high as €25 per share.

It based this on increased ancillary revenue growth, the economic benefits of a modernised fleet and further momentum of the airline’s ‘Always Getting Better’ customer improvement programme.

Ryanair chairman David Bonderman yesterday said customers can expect further service improvements, with the policy already having led the company to raise its current full-year traffic forecast to 117 million customers.

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