British Airways Owner Pares Outlook as Pound Clips Earnings

  • IAG three-month profit down 3.6% as sterling’s drop hits home
  • Full-year guidance cut; shares gain as increase still forecast

British Airways owner IAG SA cut its earnings outlook for the second time since the U.K. voted to quit the European Union as sluggish demand and a slide in the value of sterling hurt revenues.

IAG now anticipates an operating profit of about 2.5 billion euros ($2.7 billion), up about 7 percent from 2015’s 2.34 billion euros, it said Friday. The London-based company, which generates most of its sales in pounds but reports in the single currency, had cut its guidance in July to predict low double-digit growth.

Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh has reined in capacity expansion and placed spending under review in response to the Brexit vote. At the same time he’s powerless to combat the trend in the pound, which is down 6.2 percent against the euro since the July statement, taking the slide since the June 23 referendum to 14.4 percent.

“The currency has changed significantly since July -- that’s the single most significant issue,” Walsh said on a conference call, adding that exchange-rate effects wiped 372 million euros off operating profit in the first nine months.

Shares of IAG rose as much as 5.2 percent and were trading at that price as of 10:59 a.m. in London as the revised outlook chimed with the expectations of analysts, who had forecast a full-year profit gain of 8.4 percent prior to the statement. Third-quarter earnings of 1.21 billion euros, while down 3.6 percent from a year earlier, also matched the average forecast.

Shares Advance

The new guidance also parallels that from Ryanair Holdings Plc, which said on Oct. 18 that net income would increase by about 7 percent in the year ending March 31 rather than the 12 percent previously estimated. While based in Ireland, the discount carrier, counts Britain as its biggest market.

IAG’s share-price gain pares the decline this year to 27 percent and values the company, which also owns Ireland’s Aer Lingus and Iberia and Vueling in Spain, at 9.25 billion pounds.

While the Brexit decision threatens to compound a mismatch between ticket sales and industry capacity prompted by weakening economies and a spate of terrorist attacks, Walsh said demand has held steady since IAG’s last update.

Prior to the U.K. referendum the CEO had said the group would post a gain in full-year earnings matching 2015’s 950 million-euro advance. The current guidance points to an improvement of about 160 million euros.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.