This week, Aer Lingus Group Plc (LON:AERL) reported that trading in the first half of 2010 had been ahead of the prior year, reflecting strong unit revenues coupled with reductions in fuel and staff costs. Trading for the month of June specifically was stronger than expected due to higher yields and long haul load factors than anticipated. The company noted that recent yield performance and long haul load factors had exceeded expectations and the forward booking profile suggested that this strength should continue for at least the third quarter. Aer Lingus now expects that its 2010 operating result (before exceptional items) should be no worse than break even.
Meanwhile, British Airways (LON:BAY), American Airlines (NYSE:AMR) and Iberia (IBLA:MCE) received the regulatory green light to operate a joint business on transatlantic flights. Following European Union approval on July 14, the airlines have now been granted anti-trust immunity from the US Department of Transportation. BA’s chief executive, Willie Walsh, said: “This final approval is fantastic news for all three airlines and theoneworld alliance. We've waited 14 years to bring the benefits of the transatlantic joint business to our customers and level the playing field with the other two global alliances.” The airlines plan to launch the transatlantic joint business this autumn and will co-operate commercially on flights between the EU, Switzerland and Norway and the US, Canada and Mexico.
Peter Haspel has stepped down from his role as managing director of Essenden (LON:ESS), the group that operates 38 ten pin bowling centres across the UK. He will leave the business at the end of the year and has stepped down from the Essenden board with immediate effect. During the remainder of the year, Haspel will continue to work within the business to hand over the work he has been doing.
Reporting on its performance during the 42 weeks to July 16, pub group Enterprise Inns (LON:ETI) said it had continued to see an improving trend in trading performance since its interim results and, whilst remaining cautious about the underlying economic environment, said it was expecting to deliver results for the full year in line with expectations. On a year-to-date basis, despite challenging conditions across the pub sector, average income per pub for the entire estate is down by just 2% on last year.
Pub group Fuller Smith & Turner (LON:FSTA) said it had traded well in the first 16 weeks to July 17, with like-for-like sales in its Managed Pubs and Hotels increasing by 4.1% in the period, whilst Tenanted like-for-like profits were up 1%. The Fuller's Beer Company's own brewed beer volumes declined by 2%. Chairman Michael Turner, noted that after some glorious summer weather there were economic clouds on the horizon, but that the company was well placed to deliver for its shareholders even in continuing uncertain times.
GVC Holdings (LON:GVC), the AIM listed online gaming company, said that overall trading had matched expectations during the first six months of the year. In an update ahead of its interims on September 28, the company said that net gaming revenue for H1 2010 was €28.5m, up 8% on H1 2009 and up 4% on H2 2009. The group ceased operating its loss-making Spanish focused bingo brand, Winzingo, in April 2010 and now has three core brands: CasinoClub, Betaland, and Betboo.
AIM listed Japan Leisure Hotels (LON:JPLH) warned that revenue and EBITDA levels for the year ending December 31, 2010 would be lower than current market expectations. The company blamed the situation on the fact that its Yokkaichi hotel had been closed for renovation for the majority of the first six months of the current financial year. It also pointed to aggressive pricing in the market, which had caused occupancy levels to fall. The company said it was taking action to mitigate the problems.
LO-Q (LON:LOQ), the AIM listed company that makes and sells virtual queuing systems for theme parks and major attractions, posted a 21% rise in revenues to £2.46m in the half-year to April 30, with pre-tax losses narrowing to £0.9m from £1.1m a year ago. The company said that the number of visitors using its systems had increased by 18% during the period, with overall park attendance figures up 8%. The news came as Jeff McManus, who had been acting as chairman and CEO, announced his departure from the company.
Pub group Mitchells & Butlers (LON:MAB) said that like-for-like sales in the first 42 weeks of the financial year had increased by 1.6% with total sales up 2.1%. Like-for-like sales rose by 1.2% in the most recent nine weeks since the company reported on May 19. The month of the World Cup had a negative impact on food sales reducing overall like-for-like sales by approximately 2.0%, indicating an estimated underlying growth rate of 3.2% in the nine week period. M&B said there continued to be uncertainty in the outlook for discretionary expenditure and associated pressure on the UK's eating and drinking out market. However, it said its core brands' effective marketing and value positioning had generated increases in sales and profitability this year and formed a strong platform for future growth.
Mobile phone gambling specialist Probability Plc (LON:PBTY) said that trading in the full year to March 31 had met expectations and that the year had seen the company make strategic investments in its gaming platform, designed to position it for its next stage of growth. Net gaming revenue fell slightly to £4.7m and the overall loss for the year was £755k against £153k in 2009, reflecting the strategic investment in technology.
No frills airline Ryanair Hldgs (LON:RYA) announced a Q1 net profit of €138.5m, an increase of 1% over last year's Q1 figure (excluding pre tax exceptional costs of €50m from the volcanic ash airspace closures in April and May). Total revenues rose by 16% to €896.8m due to an 8% rise in traffic and a 5% increase in average fares. Unit costs rose by 9% due to higher fuel prices (excluding fuel they rose 1%) as sector length grew by 13%. Ryanair's CEO, Michael O'Leary, said: “Our Q1 profits were adversely impacted by the unnecessary closures of European airspace for 18 days in April and May.” Separately, the company announced it would open its 44thbase at Seville in November 2010 with two based aircraft and 29 routes.
Skywest Airlines (LON:SKYW), the airline operator working out of Western Australia, said it had struck a reciprocal codeshare deal with Virgin Blue, the country’s second largest airline group, in a move that extended an existing three-year partnership. Virgin Blue’s chief executive John Borghetti said the agreement would allow the airlines to develop a closer, more strategic commercial relationship. This planned expansion of the codeshare agreement will more than double the routes on which the airlines co-operate. The first phase of this agreement means that Virgin Blue customers will have access to an expanded network in Western Australia to include destinations such as: Albany, Esperance, Geraldton, Exmouth, Carnarvon, Monkey Mia and Kalbarri. Ports already covered by the agreement include: Broome, Kununurra, Karratha and Kalgoorlie.
With the approach of the new football season in August Weather Lottery Plc (the) (LON:TWL) announced that its expansion into on-line gaming under the brand name "FC Betz.com" was moving ahead with the signing of partnership contracts with football clubs, Derby County FC and Sheffield Wednesday FC. TWL has signed a multi-year contracts with the clubs and will provide a full package of on-line gaming products.
Finally, bookmaker William Hill Plc (LON:WMH) reported that the second quarter of 2010 had seen the continuation of positive net revenue trends for the group as a whole, benefitting from strong growth from William Hill Online and gaming machines. For the year to June 29, group net revenue was up around 3% compared with the same period in 2009 and pre-exceptional earnings before interest, tax and amortisation for the first half of 2010 are expected to be around £135m, broadly flat on last year. Separately, the company said that William Hill Online is to establish a new Telephone betting operation based in Gibraltar. At the same time, its Telephone betting subsidiary, William Hill Credit Ltd, will close its operation in the UK.