Easyjet raises profit guidance

Low-cost airline easyJet raised its full-year profit guidance after more corporate passengers flew with the carrier in the second half and said it would return around £190m to shareholders.

"EasyJet's commercial performance continues to be robust across the network, with particular strength on city routes used by business and short break leisure travellers," the company said in a statement on Thursday.

"As a result, the board's expectation for profit before tax for the year ending 30 September 2011 is now between £240m and £250m compared with our previous expectation of £200m to £230m."

The Luton, southern England-based airline said it would pay a dividend of 9 pence per share for the year and had decided to return a further 35 pence per share by way of a special dividend in light of the carrier's strong recent performance.

"Taken together this provides an estimated total cash return to shareholders for the year of approximately £190m or 44 pence per share," easyJet said.

The budget carrier, which acted last year to lure more corporate passengers, said revenue per seat rose 6 percent in the second half of the year -- at the upper end of its expectations -- and that it had already sold around a third of the seats for the first quarter of its next fiscal year.

However, it said at current fuel and exchange rates its 2012 fuel bill would likely increase by about £220m compared to the prior year.