Dart set to beat forecasts despite turmoil

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DART Group, the company behind Jet2holidays and Jet2.com, said it is optimistic that its performance in the current financial year will exceed expectations, despite the terrorist atrocity in Tunisia and the turmoil in Greece.

Earlier this month, Leeds-based Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, confirmed that all of its travellers had left Tunisia, following the terrorist attack in Sousse, in which 38 people died. The company said it had no plans to return to Tunisia this season.

Philip Meeson, the company’s chairman, said in a statement to accompany Dart Group’s full year results: “In response to the recent tragic events in Tunisia, we organised a rapid rescue operation to contact and repatriate nearly 700 of our package holidaymakers, who wished to return to the UK.

“The continuing tensions in Greece have also demanded our attention and presence.

“Senior staff were on site in Tunisia and Greece within hours of events unfolding, to ensure our customers’ needs were met, backed up by our Leeds-based emergency response organisation and teams.

“In this age of political and economic uncertainty, more consumers are becoming aware of the wider benefits of a package holiday – where the tour operator has the responsibility for their wellbeing.”

In the year ended March 31, Dart Group’s turnover increased by 12 per cent to £1.25bn while underlying group operating profit increased three per cent to £50.6m, which the company said reflected the improved trading conditions and continued investment in the leisure travel business.

Underlying profit before tax grew 36 per cent to £57.2m. After accounting for an exceptional provision of £17m, in relation to possible passenger compensation claims for historical flight delays under EC regulations, group profit before tax fell five per cent to £40.2m.

The board is recommending a final dividend of 2.25p, bringing the total proposed dividend to 3.00p per share for the year.

Mr Meeson added: “The increase in underlying group operating profit reflects improved trading and continued investment in our leisure travel business, which combines both our package holiday (Jet2holidays) and flight-only (Jet2.com), products. “This was despite the slower trading at the start of the financial year.

“Our leisure travel business took a total of 3m departing package holiday and flight-only customers to sun, city and ski destinations during the year, an increase of eight per cent.

“The growing demand for our package holiday product led to those customers making up 33 per cent of the total, resulting in both increased leisure travel revenues and aircraft load factors.”

The group’s distribution and logistics business, Fowler Welch, achieved a profit before tax of £3.3m after £0.4m of start-up losses from its new joint venture at Teynham, Kent, which started operation in May 2014.

Commenting on the group’s outlook, Mr Meeson said: “Both our leisure travel and distribution and logistics businesses have got off to a good start to the new financial year, with strong demand for holidays and distribution business wins.

“Notwithstanding the tragedy in Tunisia, and uncertainties in Greece, we are optimistic that group performance for the financial year to March 31, 2016 will exceed current market expectations.

“Looking further ahead, we note the considerable increase in capacity planned by several low cost airlines over the next few years.

“We believe the continued expansion of our package holiday product, together with the development of our directly contracted sun and city hotel portfolio, differentiates our leisure travel business, giving us confidence for our continued profitable growth.”