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Ryanair posts smaller than expected loss for three months to June 30

DUBLIN, July 27 (Reuters) - Ryanair reported on Monday an after-tax loss of 185 million euros ($216.54 million) for the three months to June 30 after COVID-19 reduced traffic by 99%, and the airline said it was impossible to say whether it might turn a profit this year.

The loss was less than the 232 million euros forecast in a company poll of analysts.

The Irish low-cost carrier, Europe’s largest, said the quarter, in which passenger numbers were down by around 99%, was “the most challenging in Ryanair’s 35-year history”.

Revenue was down 95% to 125 million euros while costs were down by 85%, it said.

“Given the current uncertainty, Ryanair cannot provide any FY21 profit after tax guidance at this time,” it said in a statement.

At the end of the quarter, on July 1, Ryanair moved from a skeleton service to flying around 40% of its usual schedule.

It hopes to fly 60% of its normal schedule in August and 70% in September and expects to post a smaller loss in the current quarter.

Ryanair shares closed on Friday at 10.91 euros, down 25% since the start of the year. That is worse than Hungarian budget rival Wizz, down just 11%, but far better than most other European carriers, including Britain’s easyJet, down 59%.

Ryanair Group Chief Executive Michael O’Leary said earlier this month that passenger numbers are likely to return to 2019 levels next year, but that it would probably take until 2022 or 2023 before ticket prices return to pre-pandemic levels. ($1 = 0.8543 euros) (Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)