Ryanair profits jump on traffic and fare rises

Chief executive Michael O'Leary: "We're benefiting from austerity across Europe"

Low-frills airline Ryanair has reported a rise in profits thanks to an increase in both passenger numbers and fares.

Net profit for the six months to the end of September was 596m euros ($765m; £477m), up 10% on the 544m euros the company made a year earlier.

Record half-year traffic numbers and an average 6% rise in fares helped boost revenue by 15% to 3.1bn euros.

The airline also raised its full-year profit forecast to 490m-520m euros, up from 400m-440m euros.

Aer Lingus offer

"Our 10% profit increase in the first-half combined with traffic growth of 7% during a period of high oil prices and continuing recession/austerity in Europe was another robust result," the airline said in a statement.

Profits exceeded the airline's expectations due partly to strong bookings after the Olympics and lower than forecast fuel costs, it added.

However, overall fuel costs rose by a quarter to 218m euros, as the average cost of oil over the period rose to $98 a barrel from $83 a barrel.

Ryanair said it expected "market conditions in Europe to remain tough as recession, austerity, high fuel costs and excessive government taxes dampen air travel demand".

"Further airline failures and consolidation are inevitable," it added.

By mid-afternoon trading, Ryanair shares were up almost 7% at 4.85 euros.

The airline also reiterated its commitment to securing a takeover of Aer Lingus, an offer for which is being looked at by European competition authorities. A previous attempt by Ryanair to buy Aer Lingus was blocked in 2007.

"Ryanair is determined to explore all commercial options to address any competition concerns the EU may have in order to secure approval for its proposed merger," said chief executive Michael O'Leary.

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