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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 February 2006, 11:54 GMT
Soaring fuel bill hurts Easyjet
Easyjet plane in flight
Fuel costs are eating away at Easyjet's profits
Low-cost airline Easyjet has warned of wider losses, with rising oil prices set to add 55m to its fuel bill.

In a trading update, the carrier said that losses for the six months to March would rise to about 45m from a 22m loss in the same period a year ago.

But it said busy summer trading should help full-year profits grow by between 5%-9% from the 82.6m seen last year.

Easyjet said it would raise passenger capacity by 15% and cut non-fuel costs by 3%-5% in the year to September.

The Luton-based carrier operates 212 routes to 64 airports and has seen strong growth in new bases such as Berlin, Dortmund and Basel.

It is continuing to expand, recently announcing the purchase of a further 20 Airbus A319 planes.

Easyjet hired investment bank Goldman Sachs as an adviser in January amid speculation that it was defending itself against a possible takeover approach from Icelandic firm FL Group, which owns Icelandair.

FL Group is Easyjet's second-largest shareholder after Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the company's founder.

He said that his family's 41% stake in the carrier was not for sale at current share prices.

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