Monday 4 February 2019 7:33 am

Ryanair falls to €20m loss as O’Leary signs new five-year contract

Budget airline Ryanair today said it suffered a €20m (£17.5m) loss in the third quarter of its financial year, blaming weaker ticket prices.

The airline also said that longstanding chief executive Michael O’Leary had signed a five-year contract for the role of group chief executive, as the company moves to a new structure.

Read more: Ryanair named worst short-haul airline for sixth year in a row

In the quarter to 31 December 2018 passenger numbers grew eight per cent to 32.7m and revenue grew nine per cent to €1.53bn.

However, lower ticket prices meant the company slipped to a €19.6m loss, compared to a €105.6m profit at the same period last year.

O’Leary said: “While a €20m loss in Q3 was disappointing, we take comfort that this was entirely due to weaker than expected air fares so our customers are enjoying record low prices, which is good for current and future traffic growth. While ancillary revenues performed strongly, up 26 per cent in Q3, this was offset by higher fuel, staff and EU261 costs.”

Ryanair reiterated its 2019 profit guidance of €1bn to €1.1bn, citing lower winter fares, strong traffic growth and stronger ancillary revenue as expected factors.

The company said it cannot rule out further cuts to air fares and slightly lower full-year guidance as a result of Brexit.

“The risk of a no-deal Brexit remains worryingly high. While we hope that common sense will prevail, and lead to either a delay in Brexit, or agreement on the 21-month transition deal currently on the table, we have taken all necessary steps to protect Ryanair’s business in a no-deal environment,” the company said.

Shares fell 4.9 per cent in early morning trading.

Ryanair said it would moved to a new group structure “not dissimilar to that” of British Airways-owner International Airlines Group (IAG).

A senior management team will oversee four subsidiaries: Ryanair DAC, Laudamotion, Ryanair Sun and Ryanair UK, all with their own chief executives and management teams.

O’Leary is taking the role of group chief executive, with plans to appoint a Ryanair DAC chief executive next year.

Chair David Bonderman and senior independent director Kyran McLaughlin have said they will step down from the board in summer 2020.

Read more: Ryanair investor calls for new chair after Bonderman survives vote

Stan McCarthy, who joined the board in May 2017, will take the role of deputy chairman from April 2019, with plans to transition to the chairman role from summer 2020.

Ryanair has come under pressure recently to shake-up its leadership, with 30 per cent of shareholdings voting against Bonderman’s re-appointment as chair at the company’s annual meeting in September.

Ryanair said “a legend like David Bonderman will be a very hard act to follow”.