The market expected easyJet's growth to continue to soar, but this morning's pre-close statement announced that it expects to deliver a first-half performance "in line with the guidance given in the 24 January 2013 Interim Management Statement", causing the slight drop-off in share price.
At around 8.5%, revenue per seat at constant currency came in ahead of expectations of 6%-8% set in January; however, capacity growth fell marginally to 3.3% against the 3.5% outlook three months ago, while cost per seat excluding fuel at constant currency has been revised to 3.5%, at the lower end of the forecast 3.5%-4.5% range in January. The first-half loss came in around expectations, between £(60) million and £(65) million where a broader £(50) million to £(75) million had previously been forecast.
Chief executive Carolyn McCall commented:
easyJet's performance over the first half reflects the continuing successful delivery of our strategy of low fares, coupled with friendly service on Europe's leading network. First half losses have been halved year on year through our disciplined approach to capacity deployment and a focus on cost management over winter.
We have also benefited from rival airlines taking winter capacity out of the market, the earlier timing of Easter compared to last year and the poor weather across the U.K. and northern Europe which stimulated strong bookings in the last few weeks of the first half of the financial year.
Management did blame the adverse weather for increased cancellations, while the weakening of the pound against the euro, U.S. dollar, and Swiss Franc is expected to account for a £30 million-£35 million adverse impact on the first half, with an additional £5 million impact from changes in the fuel price. Regardless of these factors, the amount of passengers in March increased by 5.3% compared to the same month last year, up to 4,872,934.
Despite today's ratings adjustment, easyJet's shares are now up almost 400 pence since reporting final results in November -- who said airlines were a bad investment?!
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