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Ryanair to Shift Growth Focus From UK Following EU Exit Vote

Ryanair, Europe's biggest short-haul airline, plans to reduce winter services at its main London hub and pursue growth at other bases because of weakened British economic prospects following the country's vote to leave the EU.

CEO Michael O'Leary made the announcement Monday as part of Ryanair's first-quarter earnings, which underscored the company's unrelenting growth and profit increases.

Passengers board a Ryanair plane parked at Girona airport
Passengers board a Ryanair plane parked at Girona airport, September 20, 2012. REUTERS/Albert Gea

Ryanair reported a 4 percent rise in net profit to 256 million euros ($233 million) as it carried 31.2 million passengers in the April-June period, 11 percent more than a year ago. That was partly achieved by charging fares averaging 39.92 euros ($36.35), 10 percent less than in the same period of 2015.

Shares in Ryanair were up 5.7 percent at 11.53 euros ($10.50) on the latest set of expectations-beating figures from the Dublin-based carrier.

O'Leary called British voters' June 23 referendum rejection of continued EU membership "a surprise and a disappointment" that would undermine consumer demand, including at Ryanair's biggest hub, Stansted Airport, northeast of London. He had campaigned for the United Kingdom to remain in the 28-nation bloc.

He said Ryanair might benefit competitively in the medium term if the U.K. does quit the EU, because this might force British-registered competitors such as easyJet to withdraw from intra-EU routes, while Irish-registered Ryanair would face potential regulatory challenges only to its internal British services. The Republic of Ireland remains firmly committed to EU membership.

"In the meantime, we will pivot our growth away from U.K. airports and focus more on growing at our EU airports over the next two years," he said.