* Q1 revenue up 7.7 pct, in line with expectations
* Boosted by 8.9 percent rise in business passengers
* Sees H1 results hit by timing of Easter
* High-flying shares fall as much as 3.6 pct
(Adds analysts, detail, background, shares)
By Sarah Young
LONDON, Jan 23 EasyJet's success in
attracting cost-conscious business travellers helped the
no-frills British airline to report a 7.7 percent rise in
first-quarter revenue, though it warned the timing of Easter
would hit first-half results overall.
Shares in Europe's second-biggest budget airline by
passenger numbers, which have doubled in value over the past
year, slipped as much as 3.6 percent on Thursday.
"The negative is that it's exactly as people expected it to
be," said Panmure analyst Gert Zonneveld of the results.
"Given the shares have had a phenonmenal run, you would
expect a bit of profit-taking."
EasyJet has stolen a march on bigger rival Ryanair
by introducing measures such as allocated seating and allowing
passengers to change their flights in a bid to appeal to
While easyJet posted a 51 percent rise in profit in its
2012-13 financial year and announced plans for a special
dividend for shareholders, Ryanair cut its annual profit target
twice in two months late last year.
EasyJet said on Thursday that business passenger numbers
rose 8.9 percent in the three months ended Dec. 31, the first
quarter of its financial year, more than double the 4.2 percent
rise in overall passengers.
However, the Luton, England-based firm said the timing of
Easter, which this year falls in April and so outside the first
half of its financial year, would hit revenues in the six months
to March 31. In the first half of last year, revenues got a
25-million-pound ($41.5 million) boost from Easter, it
As a result the group, which traditionally sees fewer
customers fly over the winter season, expects a first-half loss
of between 70 million pounds and 90 million pounds, more than
the 61 million pounds loss in the same period last year.
"EasyJet has made a good start to the year. The performance
in the quarter demonstrates our continued focus on cost,
progress against our strategic priorities and easyJet's
structural advantage in the European short-haul market," chief
executive Carolyn McCall said in a statement.
A focus on costs would help the company continue to deliver
sustainable growth, it said, adding it expected first-half
revenue per seat to rise slightly on the prior period.
EasyJet said its first-quarter revenue rose 7.7 percent
year-on-year to 897 million pounds.
While in line with expectations, Richard Hunter, head of
equities at brokers Hargreaves Landsdown, said the update did
not match the "great expectations" to which easyJet investors
had become accustomed.
At 1055 GMT, easyJet shares were down 2.8 percent at 1,694
pence, valuing the business at about 6.7 billion pounds.
Ryanair, which is in the midst of a drive aimed at improving
its image and wooing business travellers, is due to report its
third-quarter results on Feb. 3.
($1 = 0.6030 British pounds)
(Editing by Mark Potter)