May 19 - Ryanair narrowly beat profit forecasts in annual results and predicts strong summer sales, but as Ciara Sutton reports it warns ticket prices will slip in the winter as new planes give the low-cost giant more seats to sell.
It's already Europe's second-largest carrier. Now low-cost airline Ryanair is looking to spread its wings even further. It hopes to offer flights to the U.S. by 2019, luring long-haul passengers with cheap fares - some as low as 10 euros each. Howard Miller is Ryanair's CFO. SOUNDBITE: Howard Miller, CFO Ryanair, saying (English): "We've talked about this over the years. It won't be Ryanair, it will be a different company but it's certainly something we will look at in the future." This year's plans aren't so ambitious. The group beat forecasts - but only narrowly. Profits were down 8 percent to just over half a billion euros. It was its first fall in five years and, despite higher summer prices, it warned of weak winter sales. BGC's Mike Ingram. SOUNDBITE: Mike Ingram, market analyst, BGC Partners, saying (English): "I am quite drawn by the very cautious outlook for the year as a whole from Ryanair, which probably tells you that it's not all plain sailing." New bigger planes will also mean more seats to sell. And it hasn't yet turned around its no-frills image or reputation for poor customer service. SOUNDBITE: Howard Miller. CFO Ryanair, saying (English): "It always pays to be nice, we're very good to customers, we always gave them the lowest fares and we still have the lowest fares in Europe." Ryanair's CEO Michael O'Leary has been trying to stay out of the limelight but it's a long haul. SOUNDBITE: Mike Ingram, market analyst, BGC Partners, saying (English): "He can't keep his mouth shut and when he opens his mouth he tends to offend a lot of people and it certainly doesn't help. So changing user perceptions is going to take quite some time and in the meantime the competition is going to be snapping at his heels." But promises of a 20% rise in profit in the coming year went down well with investors. A U.S. service may be a long term plan but shares took off immediately - at one point topping 10%