Most of us are probably familiar with the Olympics motto "faster, higher, stronger." I suggest that the motto for long-term investment outperformance might be something in a similar vein -- "cheaper, better, easier." If you offer a product or service that's cheaper, better, or easier than the competition's, you stand a very good chance of winning.
And oh, lordy, does Ireland's low-cost airline Ryanair
Results for the company's fiscal third quarter were OK. Revenue was up 27% on a 27% boost in capacity and a 26% increase in passenger counts. As you might then expect, revenue per passenger yields was basically flat. Likewise, the load factor didn't move much, either -- from 84 to 83 for the quarter.
If you're going to play the low-cost game and survive (let alone win), you've got to be virtually obsessive-compulsive about costs. To that end, unit costs were up 3% in the quarter despite a 59% jump in fuel costs -- and that was with hedging. Total reported operating expenses were up 32% for the quarter, though. And so, even adjusting for an unusual accounting item in the year-ago period, adjusted profits rose just 6% in the quarter. In the interests of equal time, I note that underlying profit growth was much better (up 22%), but this is a somewhat fuzzier metric to use.
And as I've come to learn after a few quarters now, a Ryanair quarterly report just isn't complete without CEO Michael O'Leary having a good tilt at a windmill. In this case, it's BAA's plans for what he calls a "marble palace" and a "Taj Mahal" at England's Stansted airport. While I normally don't care much for CEOs who complain about regulators or monopolies (and BAA is a monopoly), I certainly see his point here -- particularly since such a move would raise costs for the airline (and its passengers) and really benefit almost nobody.
While this stock looks expensive, so do the stocks of other airline companies that are well-run enough to be profitable through these tough times. Ryanair, Southwest Airlines
For more flights of Foolish fancy:
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).