Ryanair cuts growth plans as first MAX deliveries delayed to March

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DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ryanair (I:) said on Monday it expects to take delivery of its first Boeing (N:) 737 MAX in March at the earliest, two months later than it last forecast, pushing its passenger growth for next year to its lowest level in years.

The Irish low-cost giant now expects to receive its first 737 MAX in March or April 2020 at the earliest, it said. In July it said it hoped to receive it in January.

As a result Ryanair has cut the number of MAX planes it expects to be flying around the middle of next year to 20 from its July forecast of 30 and its original plan of 58.

“The risk of further delay is rising,” Chief Executive Michael O’Leary said in a statement.

Ryanair now expects to fly 157 million passengers in the year to March 31 2021, down from its July forecast of 162 million, a growth rate of just 2.6% from its target of 153 million in its current financial year.

Ryanair said its outlook for average fares for the remainder of the year was “cautious”.

The airline reported post-tax profit of 1.15 billion euros ($1.3 billion), in line with last year, for the six months from April to September, its most profitable part of the year.

That compares to a forecast of 1.08 billion euros in a company-supplied poll of analysts.

The result allowed the airline to narrow its profit forecast for its financial year to the end of March to 800-900 million euros from its earlier forecast of 750-950 million euros, compared to a consensus analyst forecast of 836 million euros.

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