DUBLIN (AP) — Ryanair shares rose 5 percent on Monday after Europe's top budget airline said it expects to carry more than 200 million passengers annually by 2024, 11 percent higher than previously forecast.
The Dublin-based carrier offered the stronger long-term outlook as part of its half-year results for the tourism-driven April-September period, when the airline carries the bulk of its customers.
Ryanair shook off last month's profits warning pegged to the summer slide in the value of the British pound following the United Kingdom referendum to leave the European Union. Ireland is in the euro currency zone but Ryanair does 26 percent of its business in Britain, where customers pay for products priced in sterling.
The airline said it carried 65 million passengers in the first half of the fiscal year, a 12 percent gain versus April-September 2015. Sales increased 2 percent to 4.1 billion euros ($4.6 billion) while net profit rose 7 percent to nearly 1.19 billion euros ($1.32 billion).
Ryanair expects to carry a company-record 119 million passengers in this fiscal year as the airline pursues a strategy of relentless expansion across the continent, most prominently Germany.
Chief Executive Michael O'Leary says Ryanair plans this winter to expand services in Berlin and Frankfurt and open six new bases in the German cities of Hamburg and Nuremburg as well as Bucharest, Romania; Prague, Czech Republic; Vilnius, Lithuania, and Bournemouth on England's south coast.
O'Leary said he stood by the airline's negatively revised profits forecast issued in mid-October anticipating net profits of 1.3 billion euros to 1.35 billion euros when full-year fiscal 2017 earnings are published in May. He said profits would be constrained by the airline's policy of filling aircraft by offering steeply discounted fares when necessary.
Fares fell 10 percent in the April-September period to an average price of 50 euros ($55.35) per one-way ticket, an approach that allowed Ryanair to set a new load factor record of 95 percent of seats sold.
Ryanair shares surged on the Irish Stock Exchange to a 4 1/2-month high of 13.54 euros, nearly reaching a level last seen hours before the U.K. vote June 23 to leave the EU. The shares were at 13.42 euros ($14.85) in midday trading, up 5.1 percent on the day.