Ryanair back to profit but future remains uncertain


Ryanair ended the first quarter of its financial year 2023 with a profit, the first one since Q1 FY2020. Revenues soared, but the Irish low-cost isn’t comfortable about how the rest of FY23 could be panning out as new Covid variants could push it back into a loss for the autumn and winter. Ryanair back to profit but future remains uncertain.

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Ryanair reported a €170 million net profit after tax compared to a €-272.6 million loss for the same April-June period last year. The operating profit was €219.6 million versus €-304.5 million last year. Total revenues soared from €370.5 million to €2.6 billion, of which €1.6 billion is from tickets and the rest from ancillary revenues. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February damaged Ryanair’s Easter bookings and has resulted in a four percent drop in ticket prices over Q1 2019. The group carried 45.5 million passengers, up from 8.1 million in the same period last year, and plans to grow to 165 million for the full year.

Also soaring were the carrier’s operating expenses, which were up to €2.4 billion from €675 million. Fuel costs were up to €1.0 billion from €156.6 million in Q1 FY22, but route charges, staff costs, and airport and handling costs were also up as Ryanair operated at higher capacity compared to last year. Actually, Ryanair and its subsidies Malta Air, Buzz, and Lauda Air operated at 115 percent capacity over pre-pandemic levels.

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Its business and customers suffered from “unprecedented air traffic control and airport handling delays”, affecting punctuality. Q2 will certainly include more about disruptions, as Ryanair suffered the effects of multiple strikes of cockpit and cabin crew in Italy, Spain, France, and Belgium in July. Michael O’Leary referred to the strikes as “PR noise from minority unions in Spain, they are not supported by our cabin crews and pilots. In Belgium, they were supported by them, but remember that these strikes affected never more than one percent of our 3.000 daily flights.”

He said that Ryanair has negotiated new agreements with unions that will restore previously agreed pay cuts. “To date, accelerated pay restoration agreements have been agreed with unions representing over eighty percent of our pilots and approximately seventy percent of our cabin crews across Europe. We hope to conclude agreements with the small remaining balance in the near future.”

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Blurred visibility

That near future has blurred visibility for the low-cost carrier. “While there are clear signs of pent-up demand, bookings remain closer-in than was the norm (pre-Covid) at this time of year. We have limited visibility into the second half of Q2 and almost zero visibility into H2, when we are typically loss-making,” Michael O’Leary says, who warned earlier of another full-year loss. This means that even as we are already in the final week of July, the situation for September is unclear. In March, the carrier said that it expected reasonable profitability for FY23.

Ryanair is worried about the effects of new Covid variants and rising infections in the coming autumn and describes the current situation of the industry as “fragile”: “The strength of any recovery will be hugely dependent upon there being no adverse or unexpected developments over the remainder of FY23.” It, therefore, is unable to give guidance on the rest of FY23.

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Fuel costs have been hedged this year at eighty percent, but that still leaves the airline exposed to twenty percent of the volatile fuel and oil costs. Still, it says it is in a significantly stronger position compared to competitors. For FY24, Ryanair has so far hedged thirty percent.


Fleet

Ryanair has taken delivery of 32 Boeing MAX 8200s this year until the end of June, bringing the fleet to 73. Another fifty MAX of the 210 on order are scheduled for delivery until the summer of 2023, although Boeing had informed Ryanair that deliveries of 21 of them scheduled for between September and December might be delayed. O’Leary said this would be “inexplicable and unacceptable. (…) We continue to work with Boeing and we expect them to meet and actually beat the delivery dates for the fifty aircraft that we expect between September and April. They are producing more than sufficient aircraft to deliver Ryanair those fifty aircraft.”

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Already last March, O’Leary said that he might extend the operating leases of some 737-800s to make up for the delayed MAX deliveries. Ryanair said today that it has reviewed the 737NG leasing options but decided not to do so. Instead, it prefers to extend the lease of twenty Airbus A320ceo’s with Lauda by four years until 2028 which will lock in extensive cost savings.

Ryanair ended the quarter with €4.6 billion in liquidity, up €1.0 billion from March, or €17 billion including assets. Total debt was reduced by €0.1 billion to €5.0 billion, with net debt down from €1.5 to €0.4 billion.

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