independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

The Punt: Ryanair and Easyjet - let the dogfight begin

Carolyn McCall, chief executive officer of Easyjet
Carolyn McCall, chief executive officer of Easyjet

Ryanair couldn't help but notice how smaller rival Easyjet, especially under the stewardship of its CEO Carolyn McCall, tweaked its offering, engaged with customers and lured new fliers such as business travellers.

And while Easyjet is still some way off carrying the same number of passengers as Ryanair does, the gap has narrowed. Easyjet said that it carried 61.3 million customers in 2013, a 3.6pc increase on 2012.

That compares to the 81.4 million that Ryanair carried, which represented growth of 2.3pc. In the past 12 months, Easyjet shares have jumped 92pc, while Ryanair's delivered a 28pc rise.

Ryanair has a stated aim of increasing the number of passengers it carries on an annual basis to about 120 million by the end of the decade. It will start to take delivery this year of some of the 175 aircraft it ordered from Boeing in 2013, sparking off its expansion plans.

Ms McCall, the former group CEO of the Guardian newspaper group, has delivered record profits for Easyjet and her initiatives, including allocated seating, have encouraged older customers to fly with the airline.

Ryanair's raft of new customer service initiatives and product offerings appear to be sitting well with passengers already though. Easyjet may have stolen a march on Ryanair, but the dogfight looks like it is just starting in earnest.

NEW CHAIRMAN AT CIRCLE OIL

CIRCLE Oil's management team probably yearns for some peace and quiet.

It's been a turbulent few years for the Limerick-based mining company, whose operations are focused in the Middle East and north Africa. Transitioning from an exploration company to a production company, as it has over the past few years, is no easy task. That wasn't helped by the Arab Spring and uprisings in many of the countries where it is active.

There's also been turbulence closer to home. A new chairman has just been appointed -- former chair Thomas Anderson announced his intention to step down in September after 10 years at the company. At its AGM late last year, Mr Anderson gave a disheartening description of the challenges he faced in his role, including the difficulty of getting and keeping Middle Eastern governments on side. Still, first-half revenues of €32m were up 20pc on the year before.

The new guy is Stephen Jenkins, the former boss of UK-listed North Sea explorer Nautical Petroleum. At Nautical Petroleum he oversaw both the company's listing on London's AIM in 2005 and its £414m (€498m) sale to Cairn Energy seven years laters.

CHANGES AT THE FAI CONTINUE

Having brought Roy Keane back into the fold as Martin O'Neill took on the Ireland manager role, the FAI is still in change mode.

It has just appointed Sarah O'Shea as its deputy chief executive. Ms O'Shea (40) is no newbie. She's been with the FAI since 2006 and is currently the association's director of legal affairs. She qualified as a solicitor in 2000 and is a 2006 graduate of the FIFA masters programme.

Interestingly, Ms O'Shea is also a director of a newly-formed company called Irish Sport Matters. Its other directors include Liam Harbison, the CEO of Paralympics Ireland; Sarah Keane of Swim Ireland; Warren Deutrom of Cricket Ireland and Ciaran Gallagher of Gymnastics Ireland.

It will act as a representative association for the national governing bodies of sport and other not-for-profit sports bodies in Ireland.

Ms O'Shea will certainly have her plate full.

Irish Independent

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