Ryanair is expected, in the coming months, to announce an extension to its share buyback programme which will have returned €800m to investors when scheduled to run its course in September.

The airline returned more than €1.1bn to shareholders in its last financial year via stock buybacks and the passing on of the near €400m from the sale of its Aer Lingus stake.

It is around 80% through the €800m buyback programme begun in February, but that is now expected to be extended by a further €300m.

“We expect Ryanair to announce an extension of its buyback during the next quarter, provided that strikes and terrorist outcomes have a minimal effect,” said Darren McKinley of Merrion Stockbrokers. 

However, a spokesperson for the airline said it’s “too early to discuss future distributions at this stage”.

Merrion has cut its earnings forecast for Ryanair’s current financial year, which runs to the end of next March, by 5% to just over €1.42bn, mainly due to the effect of cancelled flights on the back of continued air traffic control staff strikes across Europe.

However, it still sees the airline’s share price rising by nearly 30% to around €17. 

Ryanair was up by almost 3% at €13.58 yesterday.

That was on the back of a record set of full-year figures, for the 12 months to the end of last March. 

The airline yesterday reported annual revenues of €6.54bn and post-tax profits of €1.24bn. 

Those figures were up, year-on-year, by 16% and 43% while passenger numbers rose 18% to 106.4m. 

Basic earnings per share were up by 48% at 93c.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary said Ryanair delivered significant traffic and profit growth in all four quarters of the year, with its ‘Always Getting Better’ customer service improvements programme attracting “millions of new customers”.

In the fourth quarter, it generated profits of €51m, up 122% on the same period the previous year. 

A €30m to €40m hit, due to strike action and terrorist attacks, had been feared. 

The airline is set to increase passenger numbers by 9% to 116m in its current financial year.

However, its initial forecasts for the year are only for modest net profit growth of around 13% to a range of €1.37bn to €1.42bn, but the pending Euros in France are set to boost first-quarter earnings. 

It upgraded its previous year forecasts three times .

“This guidance remains heavily dependent on the strength of close-in summer bookings and next winter’s yields, the strength of sterling and the absence of any further external shocks or significant air traffic control strikes/ cancellations,” said Mr O’Leary.


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