Ryanair hikes full year profit forecast after strong Christmas season

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DUBLIN, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Ryanair (RYA.I) on Wednesday sharply raised its forecast for after-tax profit for the year to end-March to between 1.325 billion euros and 1.425 billion euros from a previous range of 1 billion to 1.2 billion, citing stronger than expected holiday traffic and fares.

Europe's largest airline by passenger numbers expects to report a stronger than expected after-tax profit of close to 200 million euros in the three months to Dec. 31 after strong pent-up travel demand over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

It said it still expects the period from January to March to be loss making due to Easter holidays falling in April and a recent softening in traffic and pricing for flights out of the United Kingdom and between Irish and provincial UK airports.

The Irish airline maintained its forecast that it expects to fly 168 million passengers in its financial year to the end of March, far ahead of its previous record of 149 million.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by Philippa Fletcher

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