Ryanair profit hit by rising fuel costs

Ryanair said it still expected to meet expectations for full year profit Ryanair said it still expected to meet expectations for full year profit

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No-frills airline Ryanair has seen profits drop sharply due to the timing of Easter and rising fuel costs.

Profits after tax fell 21% to 78m euros ($103.5m; £67.3m) in the first quarter of the financial year, despite a 5% rise in revenues.

Ryanair said the drop was expected, and it still expected to meet expectations for full year profit.

Fuel costs grew by 6% in the period, the company said, and now account for 47% of total costs.

In addition, Easter fell earlier than usual this year, meaning profit from the period was included in Ryanair's fourth quarter results rather than the first quarter.

Conditions 'tough'

Chief executive Michael O'Leary said its outlook remained "cautious" for the full year.

"Market conditions are tough with recession, austerity, high fuel costs, and excessive government taxes (most recently in Belgium) impacting air travel demand and yields," he said.

Mr O'Leary added that yields on summer bookings had been "slightly weaker" recently due to the heatwave in Northern Europe, but said he still expected full year traffic to grow 3% to 81.5 million passengers.

In the first quarter, passenger traffic rose 3% to 23.2 million.

However, the sharpest growth area was in so-called ancillary revenues - derived from fees for reserved seating, priority boarding and credit card transactions - which jumped 25% in the period to 357m euros.

The company is forecasting net profits in the range of 570m to 600m euros for the full year.

In March, Ryanair placed an order with Boeing for 175 planes worth £10.3bn ($15.6bn) to be delivered between 2014 and 2018.

The deal will increase its fleet by a third to 400 planes.

In February, the European Commission blocked Ryanair's third attempt to take over rival Aer Lingus, in which Ryanair already has a 30% stake.

Mr O'Leary has now offered to sell the stake to any rival airline which manages to secure a greater than 50% stake in Aer Lingus.

The Commission fears a takeover would reduce competition to the detriment of consumers.

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