Ryanair flies back into annual profits, announces dividend

1st June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Leading European budget airline Ryanair said on Tuesday it returned to profit in 2009/10, while unveiling its first dividend for shareholders since becoming a listed company in 1997.

The Irish carrier -- with a high profile for making passengers pay extra for checked-in bags, food and other services -- recorded a net profit of 305.3 million euros (372 million dollars), compared to a net loss of 169.2 million euros last year.

It said passenger numbers jumped 14 percent while fuel costs fell 29 percent as oil prices declined. Shareholders will get a 500-million-euro dividend in October.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary hailed the results, which saw a trebling of adjusted net profits, while predicting that profits for the coming year should rise by between 10-15 percent.

"We can be proud of delivering a 200 percent increase in profits and traffic growth during a global recession when many of our competitors have announced losses or cutbacks, while more have gone bankrupt," O'Leary said.

At a typically tough-talking press conference in London, he also slammed bureaucrats behind the "entirely unnecessary" closure of large swathes of European airspace in April due to ash from a volcano in Iceland.

"The only place there was volcanic ash... was between the ears of the people" who decreed that airspace should be closed, he said, he said, adding that officials had made a "dog's balls" of the situation.

Ryanair is campaigning hard against a European regulation which compels airlines to reimburse the expenses of travellers whose flights are badly disrupted.

O'Leary said this cost them 50 million euros during the volcanic ash disruption and led to the cancellation of 9,400 Ryanair flights and the loss of 1.5 million passengers to May 18.

"They're unfair, they're clearly discriminatory and I don't think anyone thinks it's reasonable that airlines should be insurer of last resort," he said.

He also revealed that the firm was considering more of the radical cost-cutting measures which have helped make its name.

Ryanair is involved in negotiations with authorities on removing two out of the three toilets on aircraft and replacing them with six extra seats, O'Leary told reporters.

On the dividend, O'Leary said that the firm could afford to pay out the money because it would not be buying up to 200 new aircraft from Boeing, as it had been in talks to do.

He said that shareholders may get a further 500 million euros either in the form of share buybacks or another one-off dividend around March 2013.

© 2010 AFP

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