Ryanair profits rise despite Brexit concerns
Budget airline Ryanair said its profits for the first-half of the year increased by 7%, but the company has been hit by a weaker sterling following the Brexit vote.
The low-cost carrier said net profits after tax for the six months to the end of September stood at ˆ1.2bn (ˆ1bn), up from ˆ1bn (ˆ971m) for the same period last year.
It has raised its long-term traffic forecasts by more than 10% to 200 million passengers by March 2024, despite its Brexit concerns.
The company said traffic increased by 12% to 65 million customers over the first half of the year, whilst the price of an average air fare fell 10% to ˆ50 (ˆ44.61).
CEO Michael O'Leary described this as "good news for customers, not so good news for shareholders", but added that the latter would have to "learn to live with it for the foreseeable future".
He went on: "For passengers what is inevitable is in the next 12 to 18 months you benefit by having lower fares.
"But over the medium term if there is a hard Brexit there will be less capacity here in the UK and less capacity means higher prices, once the hell we know what Brexit looks like."
The boost in profits comes despite a turbulent market that has been impacted by terror attacks overseas, the economic fallout following the Brexit vote and air traffic control strikes.
Video: How long until the UK leaves the EU?
Mr O'Leary, who campaigned for Britain to remain in the European Union, said uncertainty over Brexit had led the airline to reduce its planned growth in the UK next year from 12% to 5% - switching this capacity to accelerate growth in markets such as Italy, Germany and Belgium.
He said the company had faced "difficult market conditions" that included "the adverse economic impact of the Brexit vote in June which saw sterling weaken materially over the peak summer period".
The Dublin-based airline slashed its earnings forecast in October as it off-sets the impact of the fall in the value of the pound.
However the company said it remained comfortable with its adjusted full-year forecast and expects annual earnings of between ˆ1.30bn and ˆ1.35bn (ˆ1.17bn and ˆ1.22bn).
British airlines are waiting to see whether the UK will remain a member of the EU's Open Skies aviation free market as part of Brexit negotiations with the EU.
"We hope that the UK will remain a member of Europe's 'Open Skies' system, but until the final outcome of Brexit has been determined, we will continue to adapt to changing circumstances in the best interests of our customers, our people and our shareholders," the company said.
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