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easyJet strikes upbeat tone on bookings despite Brexit concerns

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easyJet strikes upbeat tone on bookings despite Brexit concerns

easyJet strikes upbeat tone on bookings despite Brexit concerns
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PHIL NOBLE(Reuters)
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By Sarah Young

LONDON (Reuters) - British low-cost airline easyJet <EZJ.L> said Brexit was not affecting bookings for next summer, while the company's CEO said he was confident that the carrier was well-prepared for either a deal or a no-deal scenario.

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easyJet, the no.2 low-cost airline in Europe behind Ryanair <RYA.I>, struck an upbeat tone, shrugging off worries that fewer consumers from its main market Britain would take holidays when the UK leaves the European Union in March next year.

"There doesn't seem to be any concern for people to book their holidays and go away for next summer," easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren told the BBC on Tuesday.

Bookings for the summer 2019 period are slightly ahead of those seen at the same time last year for summer 2018, the airline said.

easyJet said that at 47 percent it was close to meeting post-Brexit rules for majority EU ownership, and had spent 7 million pounds on changes related to a new airline operator certificate.

"We've been preparing ourselves for the past two years for any scenario, a deal or a no deal," Lundgren said.

"I feel very confident that flying will continue and not be disrupted post-March 29."

Last year, easyJet increased its European exposure with the acquisition of parts of Air Berlin in Germany. It has also continued to express its interest in buying parts of Alitalia.

Closer to home, Lundgren did not rule out an interest in Britain's struggling regional airline Flybe <FLYB.L>, although when asked by the BBC he said it was not currently on the agenda.

"We are always looking for strategic opportunities," Lundgren said.

"But there is nothing to talk about at this moment in time, we don't have any interest in this particular topic on Flybe at the moment."

PROFIT SOARS

easyJet said record demand in its 2017/18 financial year helped the group to post a 41 percent jump in annual profit, as did the collapse of smaller rival Monarch and cancellations at Ryanair due to staff rostering issues and a series of strikes.

The British airline's recent buoyant performance is in contrast to Ryanair's, with the latter warning that the disruptions would hit profits.

But despite last year's performance and its confidence on summer bookings, easyJet stuck to a prediction for first-half revenues per seat to fall by low to mid-single digits compared to the year-earlier period, which had been boosted by a number of one-off factors.

Its shares traded down 3 percent at 1,137 pence at 0858 GMT, as analysts said the current year would be trickier than last year.

"The outlook for full-year 2019 continues to look challenging with increasing fuel headwinds, flat excluding-fuel unit costs and pressure on first-half yields from high sector capacity growth rates," Bernstein analyst Daniel Roeska said.

(Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Kate Holton and Kirsten Donvan)

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