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IAG plc (ICAGY) shares traded firmly higher Friday after the British Airways parent posted stronger-than-expected full year profits and launched a €500 million share buyback program.

The group said operating profits rose 8.6% to €2.5 billion even as revenues slipped 1.3% to €22.5 billion amid a 14% rise in overall passenger numbers to over 100 million.

"Our performance was affected by an adverse currency impact of €460 million. In particular, this was due to the weak pound following the UK's EU referendum. However, despite that, we've made good progress and continue to build on all we've achieved in our first five years," said CEO Willie Walsh. "In 2016, we carried more than 100 million passengers - double the number British Airways and Iberia carried in 2010, a year before IAG was created."

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The company also said it expects, at current fuel prices and exchange rates, to improve operating profit in the year ahead, but noted there is "continued uncertainty as we move into 2017 with upward pressure on fuel price and the changing political landscape."

"We have also seen an increase in the risk of financial loss, disruption or damage to our reputation as the frequency and sophistication of cyber-attacks on corporates continues," IAG said. 

IAG shares rose just over 2.68% in the opening minutes of trading in London to change hands at 518.5 pence each, extending the three month gain to just over 18%.