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Ryanair to shift growth focus from UK

Associated Press logo Associated Press 26/07/2016

Ryanair, Europe's biggest short-haul airline, plans to reduce winter services at its main London hub and pursue growth at other bases because of weakened British economic prospects following the country's vote to leave the EU.

CEO Michael O'Leary made the announcement on Monday as part of Ryanair's first-quarter earnings, which underscored the company's unrelenting growth and profit increases.

Ryanair reported a 4 per cent rise in net profit to 256 million euros ($A376.5 million) as it carried 31.2 million passengers in the April-June period, 11 per cent more than a year ago. That was partly achieved by charging fares averaging 39.92 ($A58.70), 10 per cent less than in the same period of 2015.

O'Leary called British voters' June 23 referendum rejection of continued EU membership "a surprise and a disappointment" that would undermine consumer demand, including at Ryanair's biggest hub, Stansted Airport, northeast of London. He had campaigned for the United Kingdom to remain in the 28-nation bloc.

He said Ryanair might benefit competitively in the medium term if the UK does quit the EU, because this might force British-registered competitors such as easyJet to withdraw from intra-EU routes, while Irish-registered Ryanair would face potential regulatory challenges only to its internal British services. The Republic of Ireland remains firmly committed to EU membership.

"In the meantime, we will pivot our growth away from UK airports and focus more on growing at our EU airports over the next two years," he said.

Ryanair left unaltered its full-year forecast of a 12 per cent profit gain of around 1.4 billion euros ($A2.06 billion).

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