Ryanair Holdings plc reported a Q4 loss of €154m but a full-year PAT of €1.43bn, compared to a PY loss of (€355m), due to strong FY traffic recovery, improving fares, industry leading cost base and advantageous fuel hedges.
Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary, said:
“Passengers who switch to Ryanair (from EU legacy airlines) can reduce their emissions by up to 50% per flight. Over the past year, we made significant progress to become net carbon neutral by 2050. Our new, fuel efficient, B737 “Gamechangers” (4% more seats, but 16% less fuel) increased to 98 aircraft at year end, and we began to retrofit scimitar winglets on our B737NG fleet which will further cut fuel burn by 1.5%.
We are working hard to achieve ambitious 2030 goals of powering 12.5% of Ryanair flights with SAF. We have recently expanded our SAF partnerships with Neste (Schiphol), OMV (Austria, Germany and CEE) and Shell (in London and Dublin) by announcing a multi-year MOU with Repsol to supply Ryanair bases in Spain. Through A4E, and the EU, we are campaigning to accelerate reform of European ATC to eliminate avoidable flight cancellations/delays (something urgent in light of repeated French ATC strikes in Q1), which will substantially lower fuel consumption and CO₂ emissions. We urge all EU consumers to sign our “Protect Overflights” petition on www.ryanair.com.
Ryanair is Europe’s No.1 ranked EU airline for ESG by Sustainalytics. During FY23, MSCI increased our ESG rating to ‘BBB’ (from ‘B’) and CDP reconfirmed Ryanair’s industry leading (‘B’) climate rating for 2023.
Ryanair’s commitment to maintaining jobs and keeping skills current through the 2-years Covid crisis, albeit with Govt. payroll support and temporary pay cut agreements with union partners (now restored, over 2 years sooner than planned), maximised our crew jobs security while our competitors cut thousands of jobs. It also meant that Ryanair was fully staffed to operate its S.22 schedule, while many competitors cancelled capacity (often at short notice) in the face of severe staff shortages. Following a strong H1 performance, Ryanair fully restored pay (some 28 months early) by agreement with our unions on new long-term multi-year pay agreements.
As Ryanair grows traffic to 225m p.a. by FY26 and 300m by FY34, our Group will create over 10,000 new jobs for highly paid pilots, cabin crew, and engineers. Over the past year we recruited and trained over 3,000 new crew members (incl. 1,000 pilot cadets). The Group opened new engineering facilities in Bergamo (Italy), Malta, Kaunas (Lith.) and Shannon (Ire.) and recently announced a €40m new Dublin maintenance centre (creating over 200 engineering jobs). These new facilities and fleet growth enables us to create cadet positions and apprenticeships for school leavers, bringing through the next generation of highly skilled aviation professionals. Ryanair Labs is actively recruiting IT & digital professionals to join our dev. teams in Dublin, Madrid, Porto and Wroclaw.
Ryanair’s strong S.22 operational resilience (despite multiple ATC delays/strikes, airport security/handling staff shortages) meant we delivered industry leading capacity recovery and OTP for our customers. This was reflected in FY23’s CSAT score of over 85%, with “crew friendliness” our top score (rated over 95%). This summer, in anticipation of further ATC disruptions, we have invested heavily in our operations (increased crew ratios, doubled the size of our ops centres, enhanced day-of-travel app. and we continue to improve customer comms.) to ensure that our passengers and crews continue to enjoy Ryanair’s industry leading OTP and reliability.
In recent months, 3 new NEDs (Eamonn Brennan, Elisabeth Köstinger and Anne Nolan) have joined the Ryanair Board. Our Chairman (Stan McCarthy) has also refreshed our Board Committees. Dick Milliken, having successfully overseen the rotation of external auditors (from KPMG to PwC) during FY23, has chosen not to seek re-election at the 2023 AGM in Sept. To facilitate experienced management of the Group, orderly succession and the onboarding of new NEDs, Louise Phelan has agreed to remain on the Board for one more year. Over the past year, Ryanair’s EU ownership has increased from 41% to 46% at year end.
Ryanair’s market share has grown significantly in most EU markets as we operated 116% of our pre-Covid capacity in FY23. Most notable gains were recorded in Italy (from 27% to 40%), Poland (26% to 36%) and Ireland (49% to 58%). This summer we will operate our largest ever schedule (almost 2,500 routes with over 3,000 daily flights), capitalising on traffic restoration, and multi-year growth deals negotiated by our New Route teams. Structural EU capacity reductions following numerous EU airline failures or fleet reductions during Covid, high oil prices (discouraging weaker, unhedged, airlines from adding capacity), a shortage of aircraft (new & leased) and the return of Asian and American visitors to Europe (due to the very strong US$) means that while S.23 European short-haul capacity remains below pre-Covid levels, demand is notably robust. Forward bookings and air fares currently into S.23 are strong and we continue to urge all customers to book early to avoid rising “close-in” prices.
We expect European airlines will continue to consolidate over the next 2 years and it seems likely they will deploy capacity in a disciplined manner. The large backlog of OEM aircraft deliveries is likely to constrain capacity growth in Europe for at least 4 more years which confers a considerable growth premium on Ryanair’s remaining 110 B737 Gamechangers deliveries over the next 3 summers. Our widening unit cost advantage over all competitors, our fuel hedging, strong balance sheet and our very low-cost aircraft order book, as well as our proven operational resilience, creates enormous growth opportunities for Ryanair over the coming years.
FY23 BUSINESS REVIEW:
Revenue & Costs:
FY23 scheduled revenue grew over 160% to €6.93bn. Following a disappointing Q1 (when traffic was badly impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 Feb. 2022), strong travel demand through the remainder of the year saw traffic rise 74% at higher fares (+10% on pre-Covid). Ancillary sales delivered a solid performance, generating just under €23 per passenger (€3.84bn). Total FY23 revenue rose 124% to €10.78bn. Total operating costs rose 75% to €9.20bn, driven by higher fuel costs (+113% to €3.90bn, offset by favourable fuel hedges and improved fuel burn as more Gamechangers entered the fleet), crew pay restoration and 74% traffic growth. Ex-fuel operating costs rose 54%, which was well below traffic growth, and unit costs (ex-fuel) were just €31 as Ryanair’s cost advantage over all other EU competitors widened substantially as we predicted it would. Our industry leading fuel hedging (over 80% hedged at approx. $64bbl) contributed significantly to the final FY23 profit outcome, saving the Group over €1.4bn.
FY24 jet fuel requirements are almost 85% hedged at approx. $89bbl (with a mix of forwards and caps) and 25% of H1 FY25 is covered at $77bbl. Just over 90% of FY24 €/$ opex is hedged at 1.08 and 38% of H1 FY25 is covered at 1.11. Our B-8200 “Gamechanger” order book is fully hedged at €/$ 1.24 which further lowers the cost of these new aircraft compared to many competitors who are engaged in expensive (and getting more expensive) leasing to grow their fleet even as interest rates are rising.
Balance Sheet & Liquidity:
Our balance sheet is one of the strongest in the industry with a BBB+ credit rating and €4.7bn gross cash at year-end, despite an €850m bond repayment in March 2023. Almost all the Group’s B737 fleet are owned and 99% are unencumbered, which significantly widens our cost advantage, as interest rates and leasing costs continue to rise for competitors. Thanks to our strong booking recovery, improving air fares and Boeing delivery delays, net cash at 31 Mar. was €0.56bn (compared to net debt of €1.45bn at 31 Mar. 2022), despite over €1.9bn capex. (Capex was c.€450m lower than expected due to Boeing delivery delays – now timed into FY24). Earlier this month Ryanair converted its unsecured €750m syndicated term loan into a revolving credit facility (at a lower margin) with an extended maturity to May 2028 (was 2024). Over the coming months we will repay a €750m maturing bond in Aug. and fund over €2.6bn capex (FY24 is the peak capex year under the “Gamechanger” order) while planning to retain a broadly flat net cash/debt position. We will continue to preserve cash to minimise financing costs as we face considerable annual aircraft capex of over €2bn p.a. from 2027 onwards.
Earlier this month, Ryanair signed an agreement to purchase 300 new Boeing 737-MAX-10 aircraft (150 firm and 150 options), which is subject to AGM approval on 14 Sept. next. These, fuel efficient, aircraft have 228 seats (21% more than our B737NGs) and phased deliveries between 2027 and 2033. We expect 50% of the order will be used to replace older NGs, while the remainder will facilitate disciplined traffic growth to approx. 300m p.a. by FY34 (an 80% increase over FY23’s traffic). Apart from delivering significant revenue growth, the additional seats (coupled with greater fuel, carbon and noise efficiency) will further widen Ryanair’s considerable unit-cost advantage over all European competitor airlines. Given the strength of the Group’s balance sheet, our strong credit ratings and the 2-year gap between the delivery of the final B-8200 “Gamechanger” in late Dec. 2024 and the first MAX-10 in early 2027, we anticipate that capex will be funded primarily from internal resources (although the Group will remain opportunistic in its financing decisions).
As a result of Boeing’s recent B737 delivery disruptions, we expect to be short (up to 10) B-8200s for peak (June & July) S.23 schedules. To facilitate Boeing, and to assist their resumption of scheduled B-8200 deliveries this autumn, we will take delivery of aircraft through July (and possibly into Aug.). We hope and expect that Boeing will recover quickly from this recent delay to minimise its impact on our FY24 traffic growth and profitability.
This year Ryanair hopes to grow traffic to approx. 185m (+10%), although Boeing’s recent delivery delays may push some of this growth into the lower yielding H2 and may reduce this target slightly. Our FY24 fuel bill will increase by over €1bn due to higher oil prices (despite our more fuel-efficient fleet). While we continue to enjoy a significant cost advantage over competitor airlines, we expect to record a modest increase in unit costs (ex-fuel) as annualised crew pay restoration, higher crew ratios this summer and increased enroute charges will not be fully offset by B737 Gamechanger deliveries in H1. To date, S.23 demand is robust, and peak S.23 fares are trending ahead of last year. Q1 fares, which benefitted from a strong Easter in April (and a very weak PY comparable due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine), will be significantly higher than Q1 FY23.
Despite ongoing uncertainty over the timing of Boeing deliveries, almost 15% unhedged fuel, limited Q2 visibility and zero H2 fare visibility (normal at this time of year), we are cautiously optimistic that FY24 revenue will grow sufficiently to cover our €1bn higher fuel bill and still deliver a modest year-on-year profit increase. This guidance remains heavily dependent upon avoiding adverse events during FY24 (such as the war in Ukraine or further, repeated, Boeing delivery delays).”