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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 June, 2003, 19:00 GMT 20:00 UK
Ryanair 'to be bigger than BA'
Share price graph and profit bar chart

Budget airline Ryanair saw its net profits rise by almost two thirds in the year to March as it announced plans to cut fares still further than the 6% seen in the past 12 months.

The company, which said it will fly 125 routes this summer thanks to its acquisition of fellow no-frills carrier Buzz, also said it expects to overtake British Airways and Lufthansa as Europe's largest internationally scheduled airline within three years.

But the airline's colourful boss, Michael O'Leary, warned that the strengthening euro and sliding dollar spelt trouble, in the shape of a cut in revenue per seat sold of as much as 10%.

Even so, the weaker dollar meant a dividend in terms of lower prices for at least 15 of the airline's massive 250-plane shopping list, all of which are to come from US manufacturer Boeing.

In the bank

Ryanair's net profits for the 12 months to March were 239.4m euros (171.9m; $281.4m ), up 53% on the year before and just ahead of analysts' expectations.

Of particular interest to a company with more than a billion dollars in the bank to finance its fare-cutting initiatives is the net margin, which rose to 28% for the year.

That peak is unlikely to be sustained as seat take-up drops to about 80% this year, Ryanair said, while the total yield - including the euro factor - could fall 15%.

But passenger numbers will soar to 24 million in 2003-4 from 15.7 million, Ryanair predicted.

Despite frequent appearances on consumer watchdog TV shows and in newspaper letters pages, the airline said it ranks as Europe's number one airline in terms of arriving on time and losing the fewest bags.

Ryanair shares closed in London at 404.5 pence, down 35p.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Michael O'Leary, Ryanair Chief Executive
"Costs are falling faster than fares"


The BBC's Tom Symonds
"Ryanair is carrying 42% more passengers"



SEE ALSO:
Cost cuts put BA back in the black
19 May 03  |  Business
Buzz taking off again
01 May 03  |  Essex
Ryanair side-steps regulator
11 Apr 03  |  Business


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