Ryanair Holdings plc reported a fiscal third quarter loss of €306 million, compared to a previous year quarter profit of €88 million. Features of this 3-month period to December 31, 2020 included:
|Q3 (IFRS) – Group||31 Dec. 2019||31 Dec. 2020||Change|
* excl. €15m except. hedge ineffectiveness charge.
Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc across the industry. Christmas & New Year traffic was severely impacted by UK travel bans imposed at short notice by many EU Govts on 19 & 20 Dec. These flight bans, and travel restrictions, saw the Group’s Dec. traffic fall by 83% to just 1.9m passengers. As announced on 7 Jan., Ryanair expects the latest lockdowns and pre-arrival Covid test requirement to materially reduce flight schedules and traffic through to Easter. The Group’s full-year (FY21) traffic forecast was therefore reduced to “between 26m to 30m” passengers.
The Covid pandemic has caused the closure of EU airlines including Flybe, Germanwings, Level and Montenegro Airlines. Norwegian has already entered a creditor protection examinership and Eurocontrol predicts more EU airline failures in 2021. Significant capacity reductions have been implemented by many EU airlines and a flood of unlawful State Aid has been committed by EU Govts to their flag carriers including Alitalia, Air France/KLM, LOT, Lufthansa, SAS, TAP and others. This illegal State Aid distorts competition and the level playing field across EU aviation. We expect intra-European capacity to be significantly reduced for the next few years, which will create growth opportunities for Ryanair (Europe’s lowest cost airline) to take advantage of recovery growth incentives, as it takes delivery of 210 new (lower cost) Boeing 737s. As soon as the Covid-19 virus recedes – and it will over the coming months as EU Govts accelerate vaccine rollouts – Ryanair and its partner airports will rapidly restore schedules, recover lost traffic, help the nations of Europe to reboot their tourism industry, and create jobs for young people across the cities and beaches of the EU. We take some comfort from the success of the UK vaccine programme which is on target to vaccinate almost 50% of the UK population (30m) by the end of March. The EU now needs to step up the slow pace of its rollout programme to match the UK’s performance.
Q3 BUSINESS REVIEW:
Revenue & Costs
Q3 revenue fell by 82% to €0.34bn as traffic shrank by 78% to 8.1m. Ancillary revenue delivered a solid performance as more guests chose priority boarding and reserved seating. Q3 cost performance was strong, falling 63% thanks to the measures implemented over the past nine months. Due to ongoing travel restrictions, reduced Q4 traffic and a revised aircraft delivery schedule, the Group recorded a €15m exceptional ineffectiveness charge on fuel and currency hedges in Q3.
The Group airlines continue to implement cost reductions. In Dec., Ryanair increased its firm order for the Boeing 737-8200 “Gamechanger” aircraft by 75 to 210 aircraft. These environmentally friendly aircraft have 4% more seats, but burn 16% less fuel and lower noise emissions by 40%. This winter, Group airlines are returning 14 older B737 aircraft to lessors as leases mature and Ryanair has recently concluded the delivery of 7 older B737NGs (pre-sold in 2019) for cargo conversion. Our Route Development teams are working with multiple airport partners on recovery/growth incentives. During Q3 the Group announced a 2 aircraft base in Paris Beauvais, added a fourth aircraft to its Naples base for S.21, announced a 4 aircraft base in Venice Treviso and increased its route network/frequencies to Venice Marco Polo, Verona and Bari. The Group also confirmed the reopening of its Shannon (Ireland) base for S.21.
Recently, Ryanair concluded a 4-year extension of its low-cost growth deal in Stansted to 2028, extending the Groups low cost leadership in the key London market. The Group has also secured easyJet’s 7 based aircraft slot portfolio in Stansted. To facilitate a ramp-up of S.21 operations, Ryanair is accelerating cabin crew training which will increase staff costs in Q4. This investment, however, will ensure that Group airlines are well placed to take up traffic recovery opportunities that arise throughout S.21 and beyond.
Balance Sheet & Liquidity
Ryanair’s balance sheet remains one of the strongest in the industry with a BBB credit rating (S&P and Fitch) and €3.5bn cash at 31 Dec. Approx. 80% of the Group’s owned fleet is unencumbered (with a book value of over €7bn). Since Mar. 2020, the Group has lowered cash burn by cutting costs, participating in EU Govt payroll support schemes, cancelling share buybacks and deferring non-essential capex. Following its successful fund raising (€400m share placing & €850m eurobond) in Sept., the Group is well financed as it takes delivery of its first B737-8200 aircraft in Q4 and plans to repay over €1.5bn maturing debt in the next 6-months (incl. CCFF £600m in Mar. & €850m bond in Jun. 2021).
Ryanair recently received a (first time) B- climate protection rating from CDP, making it one of the highest rated airlines in the world. While this is a strong inaugural rating, highlighting Ryanair’s excellent environmental performance and very strong governance, the Group is committed to improving this score. The new B737-8200s with 4% more seats, 16% lower fuel burn and 40% lower noise emissions will help Ryanair to lower its CO₂ and noise footprint and deliver on its target of being carbon neutral by 2050. Ryanair airlines remain committed to eliminating non-recyclable plastic from our operations within 5-years and already over 80% of consumables onboard our flights are plastic free.
Following the UK/EU Brexit trade agreement in late Dec., Ryanair implemented the measures necessary to remain majority EU owned and controlled to protect its EU airline licences. Ryanair has (as previously advised) restricted voting rights of non-EU shareholders from 1 Jan. The Group also received shareholder approval at its Dec. EGM to replace CREST with a system operated by Euroclear Bank for the electronic settlement of trading in Ryanair’s ordinary shares. The migration of Ryanair’s ordinary shares to Euroclear will take place as part of a wider market migration of listed Irish companies shares at a date determined by Euronext Dublin – currently expected to be on or around 15 Mar. 2021.
BOEING MAX UPDATE:
In Dec., shortly after the FAAs ungrounding of the Boeing MAX aircraft in the U.S., Ryanair ordered a further 75x Boeing 737-8200 aircraft from Boeing increasing its firm order to 210 units. Following EASAs recent certification of the MAX-8 to return to flying in Europe, we are hopeful that the B737-8200 will be certified in the coming weeks. This will enable the Group to take delivery of up to 24 new aircraft before peak S.21. This order will deliver over a 4 year period between Spring 2021 and Dec. 2024 (FY25), facilitating traffic growth to 200m p.a. by FY26. The B737-8200 aircraft is a “Gamechanger” for Ryanair’s customers and Europe’s consumers. This aircraft, when delivered, will be the most audited, most regulated in aviation history. With an exceptional environmental performance, this 197 seat Boeing aircraft is the perfect sized platform to allow Ryanair expand and grow its low fare services across Europe over the next decade while widening Ryanair’s unit cost leadership over all of our European airline competitors.
FY21 will continue to be the most challenging year in Ryanair’s 35 year history. Recently announced Covid lockdowns and travel restrictions across the EU & UK will reduce forecast FY21 traffic to between 26m and 30m (previously “up to 35m”), with more risk towards the lower end of the range. While Q4 visibility remains limited due to uncertain and constantly changing Covid-19 travel restrictions, European Govt lockdowns, the timing of the rollout of vaccines across the EU and a very close-in booking curve, we are cautiously guiding an FY21 net loss (pre-exceptional items) of between €850m and €950m.
As we look beyond the Covid-19 crisis, and vaccinations roll out, the Ryanair Group expects to have a much lower cost base and a strong balance sheet, which will enable it to fund lower fares and add lower cost aircraft to capitalise on the many growth opportunities that will be available in all markets across Europe, especially where competitor airlines have substantially cut capacity or failed. We will work assiduously with our airport and Govt partners to restore routes and recover traffic for the benefit of our airports, our customers and our people as we try to prioritise the jobs and salary recovery of our people.