O’Leary: Ryanair will expand its market share in 2010


DUBLIN – Ryanair Holdings PLC, Europe’s biggest airline by passenger numbers, said Monday it will expand its market share in 2010 as rivals fail or consolidate.

“Market conditions remain difficult, although the increasing pace of consolidation and closures among our competitors–allied to Ryanair’s continuing fleet expansion–will lead to further market-share gains this year in particular in Italy, Scandinavia, Spain, and the U.K.,” said Chief Executive Michael O’Leary. In recent months, several airlines have gone under, including Germany’s Blue Wings, the U.K.’s Flyglobespan, Slovakia’s Sky Europe & Seagle Air, and Italy’s My Air.

“We expect further casualties this winter,” Mr. O’Leary said. “We are increasing market share particularly where we compete with the big three high-fare flag carrier groups” led by Air France-KLM, British Airways PLC and Deutsche Lufthansa AG.

Mr. O’Leary’s comments came as the fast-growing budget airline posted a sharply lower net loss for its fiscal third quarter thanks a steep decline in fuel prices. Ryanair’s strategy of charging for extras such as luggage kept in the cargo hold, snacks and scratch cards also helped stabilize ticket revenue. Revenue per ticket fell 12% in the third quarter, but the company had originally expected it to fall 20%.

Ryanair said it would do better than expected in the current fiscal year, which ends March 31, because it has cut out less-profitable routes and reduced unprofitable winter capacity at high-cost airports such as Dublin and London’s Stansted.

Ryanair competitors including EasyJet PLC and Aer Lingus Group PLC are also trying to cut costs, increasing their focus on more-profitable routes and raising as much ancillary revenue as possible. For its part, Ryanair has mentioned charging fees for everything from in-flight mobile phones to using the toilet, though most analysts say the latter was one of the budget airline’s publicity stunts.

For the three months ended Dec. 31, Ryanair posted a net loss of €10.9 million ($15.1 million), sharply narrower than the €118.8 million loss recorded a year earlier, as a 37% fall in fuel costs offset a 12% fall in fares. Revenue rose 1% to €612 million from €604.5 million. Ancillary revenue, from the sale of snacks or checked-in luggage, grew 5.8% to €139.4 million or 23% of total revenue.

For the full fiscal year, the carrier now expects to record a net profit of €275 million, compared with its previous forecast of reaching the lower end of a €200 million to €300 million range. It said the decline in ticket revenue will likely be closer to 15%, rather than the 20% previously forecast.

“Capacity is still being cut back across the industry,” said Deputy CEO and Finance Chief Howard Millar , but Ryanair expects to grow passengers by 10% to 73 million passengers for fiscal 2011. Summer bookings are running in line with expectations, he added.

Ryanair had over €1.01 billion in cash at the end of December against €1.41 billion a year earlier. The airline said it expects to generate up to €1 billion of surplus cash by the end of 2013 “which would be available to return to shareholders.”