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EasyJet profit forecast disappoints market, shares fall

Thursday, 24 July 2014 - 1:38pm IST | Agency: Reuters

Low-cost airline easyJet forecast annual profit growth of between 14 percent to 19 percent on Thursday, tempering market forecasts set at the top end of the range and sending its shares down 4 percent.

Providing its first guidance on full-year profit, easyJet said it saw pretax profit for the 12 months to the end of September in a range of 545 million to 570 million pounds ($928.5-971.1 million), factoring in the impact of political events in Israel, Egypt and Russia.

Analysts had forecast pretax profit of 569 million for the current financial year, according to Thomson Reuters data. Shares in easyJet were down 4 percent at 1,344 pence by 0721 GMT, paring an earlier decline of as much as 8 percent. "We think that this outlook statement adds to investor unease that consensus forecasts have generally run ahead," said Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Robin Byde, who rates easyJet a "hold".

The airline's low-fare model has helped it and budget rival Ryanair weather an increasingly competitive European short-haul market, while higher-cost carriers have struggled. Air France-KLM, Europe's second-largest traditional network airline, warned this month that its 2014 profit could be as much as 12 percent lower than previously forecast, mainly due to overcapacity and resulting weak prices.

Lufthansa last month cut back its profit targets for the next two years, citing competition with low-cost rivals as one of the factors. EasyJet was one of a number of airlines which on Wednesday suspended flights to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport after it was targeted by Palestinian rockets. Flights were also suspended on Thursday and the airline said it was reviewing its operations in the country on a day-by-day basis.

Calling its third quarter performance "solid", easyJet said its revenue grew 8.6 percent to 1.2 billion pounds in the period, having added capacity of 6.8 percent. It said cost per seat, excluding fuel and currency movements, was 1.3 percent lower than the year-earlier period, beating earlier guidance of a 2 percent rise for the second half of the year.

($1 = 0.5870 British Pounds)

(Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Kate Holton and Tom Pfeiffer)

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