Belfast Telegraph

EasyJet profit forecast revised as strong Easter sees sales and passengers surge

EasyJet has upgraded its annual profit forecast after a strong Easter helped boost third- quarter revenues.

The budget airline reported a 16% rise in sales to £1.39 billion in the three months to June 30, with passenger numbers increasing by 10.8% to 22.3 million.

As a result, easyJet said full-year pre-tax profits are expected to come in between £380 million and £420 million, up from earlier forecasts.

Chief executive Carolyn McCall, who will leave the company to take the top job at ITV in January, said: "Our purposeful and disciplined growth continues to strengthen our market positions and we are seeing an underlying improving revenue trend.

"Although we expect capacity to continue to put pressure on yields, our progress this year has enabled us to upgrade this year's profit-before-tax forecast and demonstrates that, after a difficult 18 months of external challenges, easyJet once again has positive momentum."

However, profits will still come in below last year's £495 million, when the firm was stung by the plunging pound.

Ms McCall leaves the low-cost carrier at a difficult time for the sector in Britain, with Brexit storm clouds gathering over the travel industry.

The pound's collapse has meant fewer people travelling overseas and, more starkly, British airlines are at risk of being grounded unless Tory ministers strike an aviation deal with the EU before March 2019.

To mitigate the impact, easyJet last week confirmed that it has applied for a new air operator's certificate (AOC) in Austria to allow it to continue flying in the European Union after Britain's divorce from the bloc.

Shares in easyJet fell over 5% to 1,343p in morning trading.

Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "The problem is that easyJet is struggling to get its new passengers to pay the same as the old ones did.

"Despite an improvement in the third quarter, the group still expects revenue per seat to decline by 2% across the second half as a whole and that suggests that the key summer period has been seeing some significant discounting.

"For now, profitability is being supported by the steady slide in fuel prices. There's no guarantee fuel will stay cheap though, and at the moment the group is struggling to land more sustainable cost savings elsewhere in the business, despite its increased scale."