Shares in budget airline Ryanair (LSE: RYA) tumbled in early trading this morning. Markets responded to an awful set of quarterly numbers from the company and the government’s decision to reintroduce a 14-day quarantine on travellers coming back from Spain.
Is this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grab shares in this and other battered airlines on the cheap? Or should Foolish investors steer clear? For now, I think the latter.
We knew the figures wouldn’t be pretty but it would seem many in the market are shocked at just how bad they are.
Today, Ryanair reported a Q1 loss of €185m. Contrast this with the €243m net profit achieved over the same period last year and you get an inkling of just how hard the coronavirus has hit the FTSE 250 stock and its peers. Indeed, the company reflected that the three months to June has been “the most challenging” in its 35-year history.
No hyperbole here. As a result of lockdowns and travel bans, the number of passengers flying with the company between mid-March and the end of June dived to just 500,000. In the previous year, it was 41.9m. And while Ryanair was able to reduce costs by 85% over the period, this wasn’t enough to offset the 95% dive in revenue to €125m.
As company updates go, you’d struggle to find one as bleak as this. Perhaps the only chink of light was that Ryanair expects to have operated roughly 40% of its normal schedule in July. This will rise to 60% or so in August and “hopefully” 70% in September. It also expects to clear 90% of customer refunds relating to cancelled flights by the end of July.
Ryanair’s shares were down 7% this morning. As bad as this may sound for holders, it wasn’t as awful as the falls sustained by listed peers easyJet and Jet2 owner Dart Group. As I type, their share prices have both tumbled 13%.
Since the outlook for Ryanair and, indeed, all airlines is so uncertain, I’m not expecting things to bounce back soon. As the former reflected today, it’s “impossible” to know for how long the coronavirus will be with us and whether a second wave may coincide with the arrival of the annual flu season.
Although it predicts a smaller loss in Q2, Ryanair went on to say it couldn’t provide any guidance on full-year earnings. It did, however, forecast that traffic would drop 60% to just 60m people and that the need for airlines to cut capacity would impact air travel for “at least the next 2 or 3 years.“
Still too risky
Based on today’s news and market reaction, I’ll continue to steer well clear of airlines for a while. The risk/reward payoff simply isn’t worth the trouble in my opinion, even if some UK listed airlines (such as Ryanair) possess relatively solid balance sheets. The Dublin-based business may emerge stronger by growing its network and fleet. But the suggestion it’ll suddenly race ahead of competitors benefitting from financial aid packages from governments is optimistic.
If negotiating the coronavirus wasn’t bad enough, airlines must also contend with the elephant in the room that’s Brexit. A no-deal scenario could mean even more turbulence for the already-battered industry.
A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? Not as I see it.
Paul Summers has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.