EasyJet shares fall eight per cent: Analysts say European short-haul "dogfight" continues

 
Rebecca Smith
The airline reported a first quarter in line with expectations - but Brexit looms
The airline reported a first quarter in line with expectations - but Brexit looms (Source: Getty)

EasyJet was braced for a bumpy ride today as shares nosedived as much as 8.5 per cent this morning.

The airline recorded passenger numbers on the rise for the first quarter - up 8.2 per cent, though revenue per seat fell 8.2 per cent at constant currency. And revenues were up 7.2 per cent.

But - and it is a big but - the airline has said the weaker pound will hit its profits by a larger than expected £105m this year. And weak sterling and the impact of fuel combined are £35m worse than expected.

At the time of writing shares were down 7.76 per cent to 992.50p.

Brexit-hit sterling stirs up headwinds

Ken Odeluga, market analyst at CityIndex: "After a bruising 2016, EasyJet investors have understandably latched on to the continuing drag on profitability from Brexit-hit sterling. The impact is forecast to amount to £75m in the first half and £105m for the whole financial year.

These hits are higher than the “approximately” £70m and £90m figures the airline foresaw when reporting full-year results in November.

He added that as a group "with one of the biggest exposures to the pound in the FTSE 100", its forecasting and currency hedging facilities "could be more sophisticated".

"Dogfight" brews in European short-haul

Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "The dogfight in European short-haul continues, and sheer weight of numbers is taking its toll on EasyJet. Prices per seat are falling as competitors add capacity, made possible by lower fuel prices."

While Hyett says the airline is keeping pace, which is helping topline revenue move up, the group is "struggling to keep costs down" - partly as its new planes are flying fewer passengers than the old ones, which will eat into the margin.

Financially it looks healthy enough, but Hyett warns there is "a serious danger" that the short-haul market descends into "a prolonged slogging match" between the various low-cost carriers, which would hit profits.

Liberum analyst Gerald Khoo called it "a mixed update" - while the first quarter was solid, "a more challenging outlook" looms. Total revenue was considerably ahead of analyst forecast, though Khoo said "this reflected a bigger currency benefit than expected".

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