If Irish low-cost airline operator Ryanair
Fortunately, popularity with the flying customer is not a problem, as traffic was up 26% for the full fiscal year. And that puts this company in rarefied air when it comes to volume -- even when you include the likes of Lufthansa, Air France
Looking at the financial results, however, you can see some of the challenges. For the full year, revenue rose 28%, but net profit was up just 12%. And although I didn't see the company break out fourth-quarter results, I was able to piece it together using the information on its website. Doing so, it looks like revenue rose about 19%, and ancillary revenue -- charges for food, drink, and other stuff sold during a flight (an important category for Ryanair) -- were up 33%. Yet operating profits fell 16%. The culprits? Twenty-five percent higher staffing costs and 40% higher fuel costs.
At this point, it's anybody's guess as to whether fuel cost increases will begin to ease off. The market is starting to treat oil and gas companies as though further rises in the underlying prices of crude and gas aren't as likely, but you just never know. In the meantime, it's a safe bet that Ryanair will continue to keep a tight line on those costs it can control, as well as try revenue-generating ideas like in-flight gaming and telephony.
These shares have certainly come off a bit, but not so much so that I'd say they're really cheap. And while overseas airline operators have generally done a better job of making a buck for shareholders than American operators, it's a sector that on the whole forces me to look for bargains before plunking down my own money. By no means is Ryanair in a tailspin, but the current downdrafts in the market are creating other opportunities that I just find more interesting right now.
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson but has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).