DUBLIN, Ireland, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Profits for Ryanair, Europe's biggest budget airline, dropped 26 percent in the last quarter of 2004, largely due to lower fares and rising fuel prices.
The fourth-quarter net profit for the Irish carrier was $45.5 million, down from nearly $62 million a year earlier, the BBC reported Monday.
Still, the airline's earnings were better than expected, and Ryanair forecast that more of its competitors would go bust, helping secure future profit growth.
"As predicted, casualties continue in the European industry," said Ryanair's Chief Executive Officer Michael O'Leary, citing firms including Volare, VBird and Air Polonia.
Carriers including Italy's Alitalia and Scandinavia's SAS have posted record losses, while others such as Hapag Lloyd Express, MyTravel Lite and Basiq Air "have announced significant reversals of capacity."
"This is not a temporary phenomenon resulting from high oil prices, but a permanent market shift towards low-cost air travel," O'Leary said.
Ryanair's passenger volumes during the October to December period grew by 13 percent to 6.9 million. Total sales climbed 15 percent to more than $383.7 million.