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Ryanair buys back and cancels 11 million of its own shares

Ryanair has forked out €34m to buy back 11 million of its own shares on the market, bringing its total purchase of its own stock over the past three years to nearly €400m.

The airline revealed the stock purchase, which was made on Thursday morning.

The shares bought represent almost 0.5pc of the group's outstanding stock and were acquired at average prices of €3.07 and $3.11 a share.

Eamonn Hughes, an analyst with Goodbody Stockbrokers, said the share purchase demonstrated Ryanair's comfort with both the state of the airline's balance sheet and its earnings.

Mr Hughes added that Ryanair's shares had been trading at the bottom end of a €3 to €3.80 range that he believed was currently appropriate for the stock.

As such, the buyback was opportunistic, but he added that it still came out of "left field".

Another analyst added that the buyback was a more tax-efficient way, than a special dividend, of making a return for shareholders.

Mr Hughes said Ryanair's balance sheet would be ungeared at the end of the current financial year and the carrier would have €3.8bn in cash.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary makes little secret of the fact that, as the owner of about 5pc of the airline, he wants to see the stock price rise.

He was one of the big beneficiaries from a €500m dividend payment made by the airline late last year.

Ryanair's latest annual report noted that over the past three years it had returned €850m to shareholders by way of the dividend and €350m of share buybacks.

Shares in Ryanair closed up 1.64pc, or 5c, at €3.10. They had earlier risen by as much as 3.5pc.

Irish Independent