European Stocks Dip on Tech Losses, U.S. Jobs Caution

The pan-European STOXX 600 index slipped 0.2%, with tech stocks down 0.9%, while oil & gas stocks jumped 1.1% as crude prices rose on doubts the U.S. government would release oil from its strategic reserves. [O/R]

Still, the benchmark was on course for weekly gains as relief over a temporary lifting of the U.S. debt ceiling countered worries that soaring energy costs would push inflation higher.

UK travel stocks including British-Airways owner ICAG, Whitbread and Ryanair gained between 0.5% and 2.9% after Britain was set to scrap tough COVID-19 quarantine requirements for 47 destinations.

However, UK-listed shares of travel company TUI Group plunged 12.3%.

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

UK Shares Rise on Travel, Banking Boost; Retail Sales Data Ease Taper Fears

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index rose 0.3%, with banking shares gaining after a series of brokerage upgrades and price target hikes.

Asia-focused banks HSBC Holdings and Standard Chartered jumped 1.8% and 0.5%, respectively, after Barclays raised price targets on the stocks. RBC also upgraded HSBC to “outperform” from “sector perform”.

However, gains on the FTSE 100 were capped by miners Rio Tinto and Anglo American, which slipped 2.7% and 3.6% after Morgan Stanley cut its price targets on the stocks.

The domestically focused mid-cap FTSE 250 index advanced 0.5%.

British retail sales dropped 0.9% on the month in August versus a Reuters poll for a rise of 0.5%, after data earlier this week pointed towards a sharp recovery in the jobs market and a spike in inflation.

Investor focus will now be on the outcome of Bank of England’s (BoE) policy meeting next week.

“Next week’s policy decision should reaffirm that some tightening will be needed over the next few years to keep inflation (and the economy) in check. But we don’t expect the BoE to conclude that there is a sufficient case yet for near-term rate hikes,” Deutsche Bank economist Sanjay Raja said.

Airlines Wizz Air, Ryanair Holdings and British Airways owner IAG, and holiday company TUI AG rose between 1.2% and 4.7%, as Britain was set to consider easing its COVID-19 rules for international travel.

“The hope will be that a shift in the rules is the precursor to people jetting off for autumn and winter getaways,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

Wickes Group jumped 5.6% to the top of FTSE 250 index after Deutsche upgraded the DIY retailer to “buy” from “hold”.

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

(Reporting by Devik Jain in Bengaluru; Editing by Uttaresh.V and Shounak Dasgupta)

Ryanair Nudges Up Annual Traffic Forecast, First-quarter Loss Smaller Than Expected

The Irish airline, Europe’s largest low-cost carrier, said it expected to fly between 90 and 100 million passengers in its financial year to end-March 2022, up from an earlier forecast of 80-100 million.

Ryanair flew 27.5 million passengers in the year to March 2021, down from a pre-COVID-19 peak of 149 million the previous year.

The loss of 273 million euros in the first quarter was slightly better than the 283 million euro loss forecast by a company poll of analysts.

Group Chief Executive Michael O’Leary said in a statement that it remained impossible to provide a meaningful profit forecast for the financial year to end-March 2022, but reiterated that the airline was cautiously expecting to post a small loss or break even.

The airline expects to fly 9 million passengers in July, at the top of a previous forecast range of 7-9 million, rising to 10 million in August, O’Leary said.

The airline, which faces a web of overlapping COVID-19 travel restrictions across Europe that has hamstrung the industry, said it expects a “strong recovery” in the winter and next summer as rivals cut back on capacity.

Ryanair, which has one of the strongest balance sheets in the airline industry, said it had cash reserves of 4.06 billion euros, up from 3.15 billion at the end of March following a 1.2 billion euro bond sale in May.

($1 = 0.8490 euros)

(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

Ryanair CEO Sees Travel ‘Mushrooming’ Despite Covid-19 Restrictions

By Catarina Demony

In an interview with Reuters ahead of a news conference in Lisbon, O’Leary said bookings had recovered very strongly over the last eight weeks, with particularly high volumes of bookings to Portugal and other summer destinations from Germany, Scandinavia, and the Benelux countries.

“Traffic is mushrooming and a lot of that folk are families going on summer holidays to the beaches of Portugal, Spain, Greece and Italy,” O’Leary said, adding the airline was on track to fly 80 to 100 million passengers by March 2022.

That is up from 27.5 million last year but still below pre-pandemic levels of 149 million. O’Leary said Ryanair carried 1.7 million passengers in May and said the number was likely to increase to 5 million in June and 9 million the following month.

To boost travel further, O’Leary said fully vaccinated holidaymakers across Europe should be allowed to travel freely.

Britain allowed vacations again from May after months of lockdown but discourages travel to popular holiday destinations such as Spain, France, Greece and the United States, classifying them as “amber” under its “traffic light” system.

Last week, Ryanair launched a legal challenge against Britain over the traffic light system, hoping to force a relaxation of the rules.

Britons returning from European holiday destinations, including Spain, Portugal and Greece, that are currently rated “amber”, have to take multiple COVID-19 tests and isolate for 10 days.

O’Leary said the UK and Ireland were opening to travel “more slowly” compared with other countries.

“They are terrified to allow people to travel but I think it will be resolved,” he said, adding he believed the UK would join the EU’s proposed digital certificate travel scheme, which will potentially be in use by July 1.

Coronavirus cases are on the rise in Britain but also in Portugal, particularly in Lisbon, mostly due to the Delta variant. O’Leary said the increase in cases would not have a big impact on Ryanair.

“There might be some disruption in Lisbon but we think it will be reasonably small and it won’t last long because of the vaccinations taking place all over Europe,” O’Leary said.

(Reporting by Catarina Demony, writing by Victoria Waldersee and Catarina Demony; editing by Jason Neely and Jane Merriman)

Airlines, Holiday Companies Ramp Up Pressure on Britain to Ease Travel Rules

Travel companies, whose finances have been stretched to breaking point during the pandemic, are desperate to avoid another summer lost to COVID-19. But with Britain’s strict quarantine requirements still in place that now looks likely.

As the clock ticks down to July, Europe’s biggest airline Ryanair and Manchester Airports Group on Thursday launched legal action to try to get the government to ease the rules before the industry’s most profitable season starts.

On Wednesday, June 23, pilots, cabin crew and travel agents will gather in Westminster, central London, and at airports across Britain to try to drum up support.

Britain’s aviation industry has been harder hit by the pandemic than its European peers, according to data published by pilots trade union BALPA on Sunday.

That showed daily arrivals and departures into the United Kingdom were down 73% on an average day earlier this month compared to before the pandemic, the biggest drop in Europe. Spain, Greece and France were down less than 60%.

UK airports were also badly affected, with traffic in and out of London’s second busiest airport Gatwick down 92%, according to the data.

The government had to balance the risks of foreign holidays bringing new variants of the virus into Britain, justice minister Robert Buckland told the BBC. Public Health England official Susan Hopkins said people should predominantly holiday at home this summer while the population is vaccinated.

But time is running out for the industry, said the union.

“There is no time to hide behind task forces and reviews,” said BALPA general secretary Brian Strutton.

“BALPA is demanding that the UK Government gets its act together and opens the U.S. routes and European holiday travel destinations that it has blocked with no published evidence at all.”

Over 45,000 jobs have already been lost in UK aviation, with estimates suggesting that 860,000 aviation, travel and tourism jobs are being sustained only by government furlough schemes.

(Reporting by Sarah Young, additional reporting by William JamesEditing by Mark Potter and Louise Heavens)

Ryanair Extends Winning Streak as Court Annuls German Aid for Condor

By Foo Yun Chee

The Luxembourg-based General Court annulled regulators’ decision approving the measure but said Condor would not be required to repay the aid for now due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pending a new decision by the European Commission.

“The General Court annuls the Commission decision approving the state aid granted by Germany to the airline Condor Flugdienst on the ground of an inadequate statement of reasons,” Europe’s second-top court said.

Judges said the EU competition enforcer had provided inadequate reasons regarding the direct causal link between the costs resulting from the extension of Condor’s insolvency period and the cancellation and rescheduling of its flights as a result of travel restrictions related to the pandemic.

The EU executive last year cleared a 550-million-euro ($670 million) German state-guaranteed loan to Condor, a former unit of collapsed holiday company Thomas Cook which operated a fleet of more than 50 aircraft before the pandemic, saying the measure complied with the bloc’s state aid rules.

Ryanair hailed Wednesday’s judgment.

“If Europe is to emerge from this crisis with a functioning single market, the European Commission must stand up to national governments and stop rubberstamping discriminatory State aid to inefficient national airlines,” Europe’s biggest budget airline said in a statement.

The Commission said it would study the judgment before taking the next steps.

Condor, in which investment fund Attestor has acquired a 51% stake from the German state, said the ruling would not affect the company for now.

“Today’s decision of the European court has no impact on the entry of Attestor as new majority owner of Condor. As the ruling suspends the implementation … it has no impact on Condor’s liquidity,” the company said in a statement.

The German government said the Commission’s decision could be fixed relatively quickly as it was only the reasoning which was found to be wrong.

Ryanair, which has filed 16 lawsuits against the Commission for allowing state aid to Lufthansa, Air France KLM and other rivals as well as national schemes benefiting flag carriers, scored its first victories last month when the same court rejected aid given to KLM and Portugal’s TAP.

The case is T-665/20 Ryanair v Commission.

($1 = 0.8205 euros)

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, additional reporting by Conor Humphries in Dublin, Ilona Wissenbach and Christian Kraemer in Frankfurt, and Priyanshi Mandhan in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Chopra, Kirsten Donovan)

UK Launches Action Against Ryanair and BA Over Refunds

During periods of lockdown across Britain, the airlines refused to give refunds to people that were lawfully unable to fly, with IAG-owned British Airways offering vouchers or rebooking and Ryanair providing the option to rebook.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said the airlines may have breached consumer law and it had opened enforcement cases against them.

CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli said: “While we understand that airlines have had a tough time during the pandemic, people should not be left unfairly out of pocket for following the law.

“Customers booked these flights in good faith and were legally unable to take them due to circumstances entirely outside of their control. We believe these people should have been offered their money back.”

The CMA said it had written to both airlines and was seeking to resolve it concerns with the companies, which may include refunds, or other redress, for affected customers.

Ryanair said it welcomed the CMA’s update on its review of airline policies on refund requests made by UK consumers whose flights operated during periods of lockdown.

“Ryanair has approached such refund requests on a case by case basis and has paid refunds in justified cases,” it said.

“Since June 2020, all our customers have also had the ability to rebook their flights without paying a change fee and millions of our UK customers have availed of this option.”

(Reporting by Paul Sandle and Sarah Young; Editing by Alistair Smout)

Italy’s Antitrust Fines Ryanair 4.2 Million Euros For Not Refunding Passengers

The regulator added that the Irish airline had a “seriously unfair conduct” in cancelling planned flights, using the pandemic as the reason, and giving passengers vouchers rather than paying them back the price of their tickets.

In past days, the authority had also fined British carrier EasyJet 2.8 million euros and Spanish airline Volotea for 1.4 million euros for the same reason, it said.

($1 = 0.8204 euros)

(Reporting by Cristina Carlevaro, editing by Giulia Segreti)

Ryanair’s First 737 MAX Delivery Weeks Away After New Delays

Boeing’s largest European customer for the jet has been waiting two years for its first delivery owing to the grounding of the aircraft after two fatal crashes.

In March it cut its forecast for MAX deliveries in time for the 2021 summer season from 24 to 16, saying it would take eight in April and eight in May and was not planning to take any during the peak summer months from June onwards.

But the chief executive of Ryanair DAC, the Ryanair Group’s main airline, on Wednesday indicated that it might not take delivery of any of the jets before the end of April.

“We are hoping it’s going to be in the next number of weeks. Probably in the next two weeks,” Eddie Wilson told the online World Aviation Festival.

Group Chief Executive Michael O’Leary on Wednesday said the airline had a technical team waiting in Seattle but that Boeing had not delivered.

“We are hoping to (take delivery of the MAX) but Boeing still haven’t managed to deliver one yet,” O’Leary told the Financial Times. “On a daily basis we have a team out in Seattle waiting for delivery of the first aircraft.”

O’Leary said on April that the first of 210 MAX jets Ryanair has on order would be delivered within days.

(Reporting by Conor HumphriesEditing by David Goodman)

Ryanair Says Slow EU Vaccine Rollout to Hit Passenger Forecast

The Irish company said it now expected passenger traffic in the year to March 31, 2022, to be towards the lower end of its previously estimate of 80-120 million people.

“Easter travel restrictions/lockdowns and a delayed traffic recovery into the peak Summer 21 season, due to the slow rollout in the EU of COVID-19 vaccines, means that FY22 traffic is likely to be towards the lower end of our previously guided range,” it said in a statement.

Ryanair flew 27.5 million passengers in the last 12 months, down from 149 million passengers in the year to March 2020, before the pandemic had a significant impact.

The airline, one of the harshest critics of European politicians’ handling of the COVID-19 crisis, said that while it was too soon to make meaningful profit guidance for the new financial year, it expected to be “close to breakeven.”

Goodbody Stockbrokers said in a note it expected “some adjustment down” from its current 252 million euro ($299 million) profit forecast for the year to end-March 2022.

Ryanair, which is due to publish its annual results on May 17, said it expected to announce a net loss of 800-850 million euros compared with 850-950 million previously.

The airline had 3.15 billion euros of cash at the end of March, down from 3.5 billion at the end of December.

Its shares were unchanged at 16.95 euros at 0844 GMT.

(Reporting by Conor Humphries. Editing by Jason Neely and Mark Potter)