Aer Lingus parent IAG confident on outlook but fourth quarter disappoints

British Airways planes

The company's fuel bill, while down overall in 2017, started to rise in the final three months, which prompted some investors to question whether it can meet some of its performance targets.

International Consolidated Airlines Group S.A. (IAG.L, BAIRY.PK, BAY.L) reported 2017 profit to equity holders of the parent of 2.00 billion euros compared to 1.93 billion euros, prior year. While headline revenues and adjusted EBIT looked encouraging at €22.97bn and €3.1bn respectively (vs. expectations of €22.97bn and €3.05bn), and both passenger numbers and total capacity improved 4.1% and 6.3%, a closer analysis of key performance metrics reveals the reasons for today's share price turbulence.

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary has said he doesn't share rivals' optimism over unit revenue this year.

Available seat kilometres was up 2.6% to 306.19 billion, though passenger revenue per available seat kilometre fell 1.0% to 6.61 cents from 6.68 cents.

Operating profit before exceptional items for British Airways rose 19% to EUR1.75 billion, while the figure rose 16% to EUR269.0 million for Aer Lingus.

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The airline said that while its passenger revenues increased past year, they were lower on a unit basis due to the airline's significant capacity growth and competitive pressures.

"We're reporting a very good full year performance with an operating profit of €3bn before exceptional items, up 18.9pc compared to last year", Willie Walsh, IAG chief executive officer, said. Furthermore, despite rising oil prices, the company successfully saw fuel costs fall a helpful 5%.

Looking forwards the group said that at current fuel prices and exchange rates, it expects its operating profit for 2018 to show an increase year-on-year. "The turnaround in Vueling, following the challenges of 2016, has been particularly outstanding".

Passenger unit revenue is more positive, up 1.5% over the same period.

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