City analysts react to Ryanair's record 2016 profit as Irish carrier remains cautious over Brexit

 
Rebecca Smith
Ryanair says Brexit and concern over terror attacks remain challenges going forward
Ryanair says Brexit and concern over terror attacks remain challenges going forward (Source: Getty)

Ryanair's 2016 might have been filled with warnings about Brexit, but it still reported a record net profit of €1.32bn for the year as passenger numbers rose.

The Irish carrier is expecting fares to keep falling, though it said the decline will be less steep than last year. It continues to look away from the UK in the wake of the Brexit vote, and has eyes on ramping up European expansion, saying it's in talks with Boeing to add two or three more 737 jets to its existing delivery schedule.

Shares edged down this morning and were down 1.11 per cent at the time of writing.

So what have analysts made of the results?

Read more: Ryanair set to turn away from UK as Brexit looms

Earnings guidance for 2018 "a touch light"

Full-year results were in line with expectations and Liberum's Gerald Khoo notes profit growth continuing "despite pressure on average fares".

He does raise an eyebrow at the guidance for 2018 earnings, noting it's "a touch light" of current consensus, but not enough to be cause for concern "given management's record of conservative guidance".

"A new €600m share buyback reassures on the strength of the balance sheet and ongoing cash generation," Khoo added.

Expect some profit taking

Robin Byde, head of transport research at Cantor Fitzgerald Europe, said: "The stock has had a strong run, along with the rest of the sector. Given these inline results, an unattractive valuation and cautious statements on the outlook, we expect some profit taking."

Momentum is crucial and Ryanair has it in spades

Mark Irvine-Fortescue at Panmure Gordon said: "Ryanair's fare weakness in FY17 was exaggerated by GBP headwinds and trading-off higher load factors, which should fade in summer 2018, supporting an improved yield outlook.

"Encouragingly ex-fuel unit costs are expected to come down yet again, by one per cent in FY18, with the fuel bill guided down €70m year-over-year."

Momentum is crucial in airlines and Ryanair is enjoying it in spades, with ancillary revenue and max aircraft deliveries enhancing the next leg of growth.

Significant potential to nab market share this summer

Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital, said that while at the lower end of estimates, Ryanair has "done well in a tough market that has seen average fares fall by 13 per cent".

"The stock opened sharply lower but seems to be finding bid fairly easily," he added.

"Digging down a bit, the numbers arguably look a little less impressive with revenues lower. Total revenue per seat was 8 per cent lower, while revenues per passenger were down a tenth."

Despite this, Wilson sees Ryanair's European expansion plans holding "significant potential" for growth.

The airline remains pretty cautious but there is a chance to gain market share this summer as legacy carriers restructure.

However, much does depend on Europe's security situation and the risk of a negative Brexit process.

Wilson adds that airlines are "probably right not to guide profits too high when so much depends on events outside of their control".

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