May 7, 2018 / 8:38 AM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 1-Norwegian Air boosts April traffic with cheaper tickets

* Passenger yield NOK 0.35 vs poll NOK 0.39

* Passenger growth 44 pct vs poll 45.1 pct

* Broker sees strong summer ahead

* Shares rise 2.2 pct after Friday fall (Adds analyst, share price)

OSLO, May 7 (Reuters) - Budget airline Norwegian Air lifted passenger traffic by 44 percent year on year in April as its long-haul expansion accelerated, though tickets were sold at lower prices than analysts had expected.

Released only days after it rejected takeover proposals from British Airways owner IAG, Norwegian reported a yield — income per passenger carried and kilometre flown — of 0.35 Norwegian crowns, missing a forecast of 0.39 crowns in a Reuters poll of analysts.

“As a result of the capacity increase we have offered a high volume of low-fare tickets to attract new customers, consequently impacting the yield this month,” Chief Executive Bjoern Kjos said in a statement.

London-listed IAG last month took a 4.6 percent stake in the company, triggering interest from other suitors, Norwegian said on April 26.

Norwegian is pursuing a massive transatlantic expansion to replicate the low-cost model that worked for European flights in an effort to turn around its loss-making operation.

The airline’s capacity, known as available seat kilometres (ASK), rose by 51 percent year on year, beating a forecast of 47.7 percent, while revenue-generating kilometres flown (RPK) grew by 44 percent, lagging the 45.1 percent forecast.

Brokers Pareto Securities, which hold a “buy” recommendation on Norwegian’s shares, said the traffic data would have a negative effect on core operating earnings (EBITDA) of 400 million Norwegian crowns ($49.6 million).

Pareto said that an earlier Easter holiday period this year, finishing in March, had a negative impact on demand, but it believes that the airline is set for a strong summer season.

Shares in Norwegian Air were up 2.2 percent at 276.6 crowns by 0822 GMT, recovering some of Friday’s 10 percent decline after the rejection of IAG’s approach. ($1 = 8.0715 Norwegian crowns) (Reporting by Ole Petter Skonnord and Terje Solsvik Editing by David Goodman)

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