Ryanair says to shift investment away from UK after Brexit vote - WSJ

A Ryanair aircraft lands at Manchester Airport in Manchester, Britain, May 26, 2015. REUTERS/Andrew Yates/File Photo

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ryanair RYA.I will not deploy new planes on United Kingdom routes next year and will focus on the EU instead after Britain voted to leave the bloc, chief executive Michael O'Leary told the Wall Street Journal.

The Irish low-cost airline, Europe’s largest by passenger numbers, flies 40 million of its 100 million-plus passengers a year to and from the United Kingdom and has its largest hub at London’s Stansted Airport.

Its shares have fallen over 23 percent since the United Kingdom voted on Thursday to leave the European Union.

O’Leary, one of the most vocal business leaders campaigning in favour of continued EU membership, had repeatedly warned he would cut investment in Britain if it voted to leave.

“We will pivot all of our growth into the European Union,” O’Leary told the newspaper in an interview published on Monday, adding that the airline’s overall growth targets remained unchanged. Ryanair did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the report.

O’Leary said he expected Britain to negotiate some sort of access to the EU market, but that if it failed, Irish-registered Ryanair could seek a UK operating licence.

He said he expected three or four months of “considerable uncertainty” due to the British vote, but forecast a limited impact on near-term bookings to and from Britain.

He said bookings were “pretty strong” in June, July and August, but that a weaker sterling would hurt earnings, which are reported in euros.

Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Ruth Pitchford