EasyJet sales up as sun seekers flee soggy Britain
LONDON (Reuters) - Sun-starved Britons fleeing unusually soggy home weather boosted sales at budget carrier easyJet Plc EZJ.J in the three months through June, bucking tough conditions elsewhere in the airline sector and sending its shares higher.
Europe's second-largest low-cost carrier after Ryanair (RYA.I) said on Wednesday revenue rose to 1.03 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) in the quarter, helped by strong demand on beach routes as Britain suffered one of its wettest prolonged spells since records began.
EasyJet, the largest carrier at London's Gatwick airport, said bookings to Malaga and Alicante in Spain and Faro in Portugal had jumped by as much as 20 percent during periods of poor weather.
It joins others such as home pizza delivery group Domino's (DOM.L) and department stores group John Lewis JLP.UL to have benefited from the constant cloudbursts, though retailers as a whole have complained of shoppers opting to stay at home.
The airline, which has also increased the number of flights between top business destinations in recent months, said it had been helped by lower fuel prices and forecast full-year pretax profit in a range of 280 million pounds to 300 million, ahead of analysts' average forecasts of 272 million.
Shares in easyJet, which have risen more than a third already in 2012, were up 3.6 percent at 549 pence by 0820 GMT, valuing the company at around 2.2 billion pounds.
Analyst Gerald Khoo at Espirito Santo said the company's new projection could lift consensus earnings expectations by some 8 percent. "We continue to view easyJet as a long-term winner in the European airline industry, and despite the tough trading environment current trading appears encouraging," he said.
European carriers, including Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA) and Lufthansa (LHAG.DE), have seen recent results hit by a toxic mix of high fuel costs, weak consumer confidence and the eurozone crisis.
Since the start of the year, airlines including loss-making Spanair and Hungarian flag-carrier Malev MALV.UL have ceased operations, leaving gaps in the market that low-cost competitors have been quick to exploit.
Luton, southern England-based easyJet said its seats flown had grown by 7.5 percent to 17.9 million during the period, while passengers carried increased by 10.9 percent to 16 million.
Its load factor - a measure of how full its planes were - rose 2.8 percentage points to 89.1 percent, while ancillary fees including charges for baggage rose by 1.20 pounds to 11.81 pounds per seat.
EasyJet last month said it planned to cut flights to and from Madrid by 20 percent and would no longer base crew and aircraft there from next winter, after the location delivered the lowest returns of all its bases.
The airline warned that the London Olympic games would present operational challenges to its London bases and had hit demand for leisure-related flights into the UK capital.
"EasyJet has seen a fall in demand for flights touching London during the Olympic period, both from inbound business travellers and outbound leisure travellers, but forward bookings show a recovery once the games have concluded," said McCall.
The carrier said around three quarters of summer seats were now booked, in line with the level achieved at the same time last year.
($1 = 0.6441 British pounds)
(Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and David Holmes)
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