RYANAIR is considering breaking with tradition and paying shareholders a one-off dividend.
This is because the airline expects a strong rise in profits this year, its chief executive said.
Europe’s largest budget carrier is still producing earnings growth unlike rivals, such as British Airways and Air France-KLM, but it has been forced to slash fares to fill aircraft as a global recession crimps consumer demand.
Michael O’Leary told the company’s annual meeting in Dublin it expects average fares to fall by about 20% over the full year and cut its full-year traffic target to 66 million passengers from 67 million, largely due to capacity cuts at its main hubs, Dublin and London-Stansted.
But O’Leary said he still expected full-year adjusted net profit to about double from last year, maintaining his forecast at the lower end of a €200 million to €300m range.
Ryanair is consequently considering the possibility of spending some of its €2.5 billion cash pile on a one-off dividend or share buybacks, he said.
Ryanair would still retain much of its cash, partly to save resources as talks about more aircraft orders with Boeing and, “less intensively”, with Airbus continue.
He also said he was unlikely to launch a third bid for Aer Lingus, which is fighting for survival due to falling demand, but has rejected two previous bids from Ryanair, its biggest shareholder.
“I can’t foresee circumstances in which we would be interested in bidding again, but you never say never,” O’Leary told reporters.
“I don’t believe Aer Lingus has a future as a standalone independent airline.”
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