Financial Comparison of Ryanair and British Airways

Ryanair is considered as the pioneer of the low-cost business model, while British Airways is constantly ranked amongst the world’s best legacy carriers. Both of these airlines are dominant companies in their segment with high passenger numbers and vast network coverage. Therefore the following question rises – how these airlines are different in terms of finance and which business model is more fruitful in the middle of an economic downturn? In order to find the answer a thorough financial investigation has been conducted relying on the data outlined in the airlines’ annual reports.

In the first section of the report the emphasis is put on the current financial situation of the airlines, while outlining the existing sources of finance. These sources are investigated thoroughly in the second part. The final section evaluates the possible or available sources to finance future investments.

Review of Ryanair’s and British Airway’s current financial situation Ryanair in the fiscal year of 2012 has generated a total of €4,390.

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2m operating revenue mainly through scheduled revenues. The company has increased its operating revenues since 2010 by €1,2bn primarily due to fare increases. In 2012 the total operating expense was €3,707m. This is also the peak in the last three years, mostly attributable to fuel and oil costs, which have almost doubled since 2010. Hence the net profit for the 2012 fiscal year was €560.4m, the highest in the history of the company. British Airways in the fiscal year ended 2011 December 31 accounted a profit of £672m after paying the taxes. This can be considered as a significant improvement after 2010’s profit of £170m.

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These figures do not provide enough in-depth information on the airlines’ real situation. In order to identify the sources of finance and the real position of BA and Ryanair further investigation with the use of ratios is required.


Current ratio is a liquidity measure that compares the liquid or current assets of the airline with its current liabilities. (Atrill, McLaney 2002)

For the fiscal year of 2012 Ryanair’s CR was 2.1355, which represents high liquidity. Generally the higher ratio is considered to be the better. According to Morrell the industry general ratio is 1.00. This suggests that Ryanair is capable of financing its short term commitments towards banks and suppliers However, it must be noticed that the airline has significantly high cash reserves, namely €2.7bn. Such rate suggests for the banks and suppliers that the company is low risk for investment and has high liquidity, but also proposes that the cash is being accumulated to finance future aircraft orders or other investments. The fact that the cash reserves has grown with €1.2bn in the last two years also underpins these assumptions.(Morrell 2007)

British Airways has a low current ratio of 0.7531. It points out the problem that BA cannot finance its current assets from its current liabilities. Thus, it can be assumed that the short term debts are financed through the more expensive long term loans. The company’s cash reserves are £1.7bn, which is considerably lower in comparison to Ryanair’s reserves. This can result in higher interest rates as the airline is not considered as a safe investment for lenders. According to Moody’s credit rating company BA’s credit ratings were B1 and BB in 2011. Also being a legacy airline BA works with more third party suppliers like travel agents and these issues can mean that the pay-outs are delayed. It is important to note that Ryanair and the low-cost business model do not use travel agents.

Performance and earning

The operating margin gives an indication of management efficiency in controlling costs and increasing revenues as it represents the operating profit as the percentage of total revenues.

Comparing to last year’s results, both airline’s ratios have remained flat, namely 14% for Ryanair and 5.2% for BA. It means that on every pound or euro BA makes £0.05 profit, while Ryanair €0.14. However, the low-cost model seems to be more profitable, but it must be taken into account that they are also operating in a lower cost structure. Also, BA has managed to generate a positive operational margin as in 2008 and 2009 its values were negative. Return on Equity (RoE) is the net profit after interest and tax expressed as percentage of shareholder’s funds.

BA has achieved a 26.2% RoE in 2011, while the same value for Ryanair was 16.9%. It means that BA is making more profit from the shareholders money. The shareholder’s money is only the one-third of BA’s asset, while Ryanair is half founded by the investors.


Gearing ratio is a measurement of the contribution of long-term lenders to the long term capital structure of a business.

Ryanair’s gearing ratio was 53.98% in 2012, which is considerably high for a low-cost airline. In other words it means that the company is financed half from borrowing and half from own capital. The lower the gearing ratio of the airline the greater the firm’s capacity to borrow more money at a lower interest rate, due to the lower risk to banks and lenders. Oppositely, BA has an even higher gearing ratio of 65.5%. Around one third of British Airways’ capital is funded by the shareholders, while the remaining is sourced from long-term loans and debts.

The following table summarises the previously outlined performance and liquidity ratios of the airlines. BA(£) Airline Ryanair(€) 9,987 Total revenue 4,390.2m 672m Profit after tax 560.4m 0,7531 Current Ratio 2,135 63,80% Gearing Ratio 53,98% 570m Cash Reserve 2708m 26.2% ROE 16.9% 5.2% Operating Margin 14%

Fleet commitments

Replacing the aircrafts is not only increases the airline’s prestige but can mean a significant reduction in operating costs as the new generation of aircrafts are much more fuel efficient or can carry more passengers than the predecessors. As the core of the LCC business model Ryanair only flies Boeing 737-800s thus reducing the maintenance costs significantly. The carrier has one live contract from 2005 with the American aircraft manufacturer that covers the procurement of 197 brand new 737800s for which the unit cost is $51m. (Ryanair 2012)  Ryanair’s long-term debt for aircraft commitments, including current maturities was €3,625.2m at March 31, 2012. The airline has funded a significant portion of its acquisition of new aircraft and equipment through borrowings under facilities provided by international financial institutions on the basis of guarantees issued by Ex-Im Bank.

At the end of fiscal year 2012 the carrier had a fleet of 294 Boeing aircraft of which 199 were funded by Ex-Im Bank guaranteed financing. Other sources to cover aircraft costs are Japanese Operating Leases with call options (30 aircrafts) and commercial debt financing (6 aircrafts). According to the bookings, 235 aircraft are owned by Ryanair, which are financed through long-term bank loans. Operational leases funded 59 aircrafts at March 31, which means that Ryanair operate these aircrafts, but does not own them.

The aircrafts are leased to provide flexibility within the aircraft delivery programme. 55 aircrafts is being financed through fix-rate debts, while for the remaining 4 aircraft Ryanair is paying variable rental payments. Out of the 25 aircraft, which has been delivered in the 2012 financial year, 11 were funded through sale-and-leaseback financing and the remainder through Ex-Im Bank guaranteed financing. To convert a portion of the floating-rate debts into the fixed rate debts, Ryanair has used interest rate swaps and cross currency rate swaps. As a result €1,314.7m of the aircraft loans are remained at floating rates. The remaining €2,310.5m is in fixed-rate euro-denominated debts with the maturities of 7 to 12 years. On all of the above mentioned borrowings the weighted average interest rate was 2.9%.

The effective rate is the rough estimate for the weighted average cost of capital. It is calculated by dividing the interest paid for the year with the long term borrowings. For Ryanair it is 3.01%, which is really close to their given figures. Accordingly their cost of long term borrowings is 109.2m, which can be considered as low. The low rate also represents trust from the lenders and investors. But, on the other hand it must be noted that at March 31, 2012 aircrafts with a net book value of €4.8bn were mortgaged to lenders as security for loans. This may be the explanation for the low interest rates. In general, Ryanair has been able to generate sufficient funds from operations to meet its nonaircraft acquisition-related working capital requirements.

Between 2008 and 2012 March Ryanair had sold and re-delivered a total of 39 aircrafts and also the company plans to dispose 8 additional before March 2014. Ryanair may choose to dispose of aircraft through sale and or non-renewal of the operating leases as they expiree between 2012 and 2013. In the next year the company has a total obligations of €1,143.3m out of which the third, around €571.8m is “purchase obligations”, i.e. buying the remaining 15 aircrafts. Each of the aircraft loans have similar terms – maturity of 12 years from drawdown date and being secured by a first priority mortgage. The overall aircraft debts (€3,625.2m) represent around 80% of all long-term liabilities, hence if the airline is capable of paying these commitments Ryanair should be able to preserve its current financial status in the upcoming years.

As it can be seen the low cost carrier Ryanair has built up a well-functioning system to finance all its aircrafts, including the 15 Boeing 737s that will be delivered in the future. Furthermore by currency swapping and low interest rates the company is in total control of its costs.

British Airways

The transparency of BA’s financial situation is significantly lower comparing it to Ryanair’s. This can be explained in two ways, either they prefer not to reveal their financial strategy and sources as it can provide valuable information for the competitors or the company does not have the adequate financial background to finance its long term commitments. British Airways has a completely different fleet to cover both its short- and long-haul routes. The fleet is owned by the company or held in finance and operational leases. The 245 aircrafts take up two thirds (£5.7bn) of the company’s total non-current assets. Also, 95% of the overall revenue is generated through the fleet.

The aircrafts comprise different sized jets from various manufacturers making the operational and maintenance costs higher. In the annual report of year ended in December 31, 2011 BA outlined its current fleet and future aircraft deliveries and options. These include 50 firm orders and 84 options. The new fleet is made up from A320s, A380s, Boeing 777-300s and 787s, which are expected to enter service between 2012 and 2017. Furthermore, in Note 13 the airline states that the cost of these aircrafts is going to be £4.1bn. But, no other information is provided about the sources that will cover these expenditures, thus it can be assumed that the future cash flows contain relevant information on these funds, but they have not been published yet. (British Airways 2012)

The non-current liabilities of loans, finance- and operational leases add up to £4.904, which is 30% more than Ryanair’s €3.8bn total long-term commitments. According to BA the bank and other loans at the end of 2011 equalled £1,324m, comprised of fixed- and floating rate loans. £693m is in floating-rate debts, while the remaining £823m is in fixed rate loans and bonds. The average interest rate for the fixed rate debts is around 6.5%, which is significantly higher than Ryanair’s 2.9%. The floating rate loans are generally determined to be 0,5%+LIBOR. The lenders consider the airline as a higher risk firm that is why the interest rates are higher. Generally, the loans are repayable between 2014 and 2018, with one exception none of the loans need to be repaid until 2014 and on. Such conditions allow BA to use the debt to generate cash in the next 2-4 years.

BA uses finance leases and hire contracts to acquire aircraft. These leases have both renewal options and purchase options. The total finance lease contracts worth £2.227bn and similarly like Ryanair, it consist of different currencies namely US dollar, Euro, Japanese yen and Sterling. The non-current side of these contracts are £1.12b, but around half of this is due obligatory in five or more years. Four of the new 777-300s are being leased through GE Commercial Aviation Services (GECAS). The finance lease agreements are mainly in place to fund the existing fleet. Therefore additional leases are required, if the new fleet is wished to be funded through such construction.

The operating leases for BA’s aircraft range from five years and some leases contain options for renewal. However, this type of contract accounts for only £316m of which is £253 is not payable within one year. Comparing to 2010 BA has halved its operational leases from £635m, it can be assumed that company took the lease contract for an aircraft or more, which was expected to be delivered in 2011, but it has been delayed so the company terminated the contractual agreement until the new aircrafts are delivered. Accordingly, it can be assumed that operational lease commitments are going to rise in the next two financial years.

Unlike Ryanair, British Airways does not provide any kind of information about the structure of the leases. The following assumption can be made though; BA offered worse interest terms with the loan contracts than Ryanair because of its weaker liquidity and performance. British Airway’s effective rate shows the same trend as its 4.301%. The company paid £161m in 2011 as cost for long term borrowings.

Financing in the short run

As it has been outlined above, Ryanair has a current ratio of 2.1, which provides a solid base for the assumption that the airline is financing its short-term liabilities from its current assets and operational profit. In fact Ryanair could repay all its short term liabilities from its €2.7bn cash reserve and would still be left with €0.9bn cash. Moreover, Ryanair’s current liabilities are half of BA’s short run commitments. In less than 1 year Ryanair will need to finance 1,1bn for obligations, like current maturities of long term debts and purchase obligations. But then again, Ryanair has the capacity to pay these.

BA is more interesting in the short run as the airline’s current ratio is 0.75. Logically the question arises – if the short-term liabilities cannot be covered from the operating revenue then how is it financed? Possibly the long-term loans are used in such case which is leading to future liquidity issues. The main problem is the “trade and other payables” entry which accounts for £3,117m within current liabilities. But, from this total amount the real credit is £1,457m, which is the money BA owes to creditors like suppliers and travel agents. The remaining are mostly prepaid flights that the airline will accomplish in the new financial year. Having the suppliers wait for their money is a way to improve cash flow.

The cash operating cycle for the company has been calculated by dividing the trade payables with operation expenses (less employee costs and depreciation). The average pay out period for British Airways is 80.1 days, which can be considered as high and nevertheless it also shores up the liquidity problems of the airline. On the other hand, Ryanair makes these to the creditors payments within 22.1 days. Note 28 describes BA’s liquidity risk in more detail. The results suggest that within the next 12 months British Airways is going to need around £2.203bn to finance all its commitments for that period. Where the money is coming from? This question remains unanswered, but it can be presumed that BA is going to need new sources to fund this £2.203bn short-term liability combined with the £4.1bn commitments for the new fleets.

Shareholders’ equity and dividend policy

Ryanair has significant retained earnings, namely €2.4bn, even though there was a €500m dividend pay-out in 2010 October and also a similar sized one is planned in 2012 November. Seeing the results and pay-outs it can be assumed that the shareholders are happy with the dividend policy and this can serve as a basis for future capital injections, if necessary. On the other hand BA’s directors declare that no dividend to be paid for the years of 2011, 2010 and 2009. Such dividend strategy can be explained by the airline’s current liquidity problems.


Both companies included their depreciation strategies in the annual reports. Ryanair states accounts the Boeings for 23 years, while British Airways calculate with 18-25 years of lifetime for their aircrafts. From these numbers it can be assumed to lower the depreciation costs the amortisation rates are underestimated by both airlines thus saving millions in the accounts. British Airways 50 2012-2017 £4.104bn 4.301% £161m £3.683bn £4.904bn Data not disclosed 80.1 days 31 March 2012 Airline Fleet commitments (no. of aircrafts) Delivery date Capital commitments for new aircrafts Effective rate Long term cost of borrowing/year Total current liabilities Total non-current liabilities Total non-current liabilities for fleet Average pay out period Financial year ended Ryanair 193 2007-2014 ~$10bn 3.01% €109.2m €1.815bn €3.879bn €3,625bn 22.1 days 31 December 2011

Future financing


Through the analysis of the financial statements it has been revealed that Ryanair has a stable financial structure that is capable to fund the various liabilities in the short- and long-run. The remaining aircraft deliveries are funded through operational revenues and cash reserves. But, it must be kept in mind that the latest fleet contract is from 2005 and all aircrafts will be delivered by 2014. The next couple of months are going to be important in terms of long term strategy for Ryanair. The accumulated cash reserves point that the airline is preparing for some sort of investment. It can be the acquisition of Aer Lingus or the procurement of new aircrafts. The acquisition of the Irish carrier is currently delayed by the EU, but Ryanair is putting all the effort to buy become major shareholder in the firm, which would enable them to appear on the long-haul market through Aer Lingus.

It also has been outlined in the annual report that Boeing has granted to give significantly lower prices for Ryanair in return of bulk orders, promotional and other activities. In other words, they are inspiring the airline to go invest into a new fleet in the middle of an economic downturn. In such case the shareholders might be willing to finance the new requirements as they are kept “happy” and also the airline has been maintaining a steady growth rate both in profits and network coverage. Banks are also aware of the securitized aircrafts also of the vast amount of cash reserves. This background could enable Ryanair to obtain loans with lower interest rate. Ryanair is aware of the favourable contract conditions with Ex-Im Bank as the carrier has stated that they expect any future commitments or guarantees issued by Ex-Im Bank to contain similar conditions.

Any inability to obtain financing for the new aircraft on advantageous term might have an adverse effect on the business, operations and financial conditions. However, easyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou calls for a slower fleet expansion plans in the next years as he believes that the annual growth is not equal with the number of aircrafts on order. Ryanair should also consider this perspective of growth as they ground 80 of their aircraft for the winter period. A great bulk of aircrafts without sufficient demand could destabilise the airline’s financial position and could make Ryanair to reassess its financial sources. (Rothwell 2012)

British Airways

Additionally to the current-liability problems (see above), the other main financial issue for BA is to pay for the new fleet. Like mentioned above the company has firm orders for 50 aircrafts for £4.1bn and options for additional 84. The following question needs to be answered pretty soon – who is going to lend money for British Airways? How much is it going to cost the airline?  The British flag carrier could try to increase its funds from shareholders money, but it can be assumed that due to the lack of the profitable dividend policy shareholders are not ready to invest more money into the airline.

Also, BA belongs to International Airlines Group (IAG) which also incorporates the Spanish carrier Iberia. The problem is Iberia is making losses, thus even if British Airways makes profit this or next year IAG is going to use that money to reduce the losses at Iberia. In other words, the Spanish carrier is pulling British Airways back at the moment. Shareholders may consider additional funds risky, therefore BA need to show that it can preserve its leading position as a legacy airline.  Cash can be generated by selling off assets or reducing costs. In December 2011 BA had only £39m available-for-sale financial asset. The airline has different amount of equities in various companies – these could be sold as well to gain cash in the short run. By selling aircrafts, which are not necessary needed, the airline could generate income.

It would not be unreasonable if BA focused more on the long-haul routes and would reduce the number of aircrafts (114) flying within Europe as the company may not be making sufficient operational profit on some of these routes due to the low cost carriers. The third option for the company to finance its future commitments is to obtain loans from banks, financial institutes or sovereign wealth funds. The latter is a possible solution as Chinese or Gulf wealth funds could be willing to inject capital into the airline, but the question is at what interest rate? The lenders know that BA is struggling with the payment of the shortterm liabilities and they are using the long-term loans, the “more expensive” money to fund the operational commitments, hence the interest rate for the credit can expected to be high.

This would solve the liquidity question in the upcoming years, but such financial funding would also mean difficulties in the period after 5 years. However, if the carrier can continue its recovery from the downturn then there is a good chance for a financially stable British Airways that can pay all its liabilities. Financial and operational leases may work, but they would only relate to the aircrafts. Also, it can be assumed from the drop in the operational lease that BA has these contracts ready and sorted out, they are not just not live as the new aircrafts have not been delivered yet.


The report has investigated two different business model’s financial structure. Results show the quantity’s victory over quality. Ryanair can maintain its market leading position and increase profits from year to year. This is attributable to the steady and well-functioning financial and operational system, which enables growth, investments and also controls liabilities and aircraft commitments. The search for new financial sources is only necessary, if Ryanair decides on a fleet expansion plan and the airline cannot agree with Ex-Im Bank about future fleet procurement.

On the other hand, British Airways seem to struggle with its existing funds hence new financial sources are required to survive the upcoming years. The decision on these funds is hard as in BA’s current situation none of them can be called advantageous. But, to choose the best solution financial advice is recommended for the carrier. Despite all the differences, the two airlines have one thing in common – the next twelve months are going to have a great effect on both carriers’ long term operations.

Reference list

  1. ATRILL, P. and MCLANEY, E., eds, 2002.
  2. Accounting and Finance for Non-Specialists Fourth edn. Pearson Education Limited. BRITISH AIRWAYS, 2012.
  3. Annual Report and Accounts Year ended 31 December 2011.
  4. British Airways. MORRELL, P.S., ed, 2007. Airline Finance Fourth edn. Ashgate.
Updated: Aug 11, 2021
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Financial Comparison of Ryanair and British Airways. (2016, Dec 02). Retrieved from

Financial Comparison of Ryanair and British Airways essay
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