Easyjet shares battered by poor figures

Shares of low-cost airline easyJet tumbled as much as eight percent on Tuesday after announcing that it was not filling its routes with fliers as much as it did the year before.Although Europe’s second largest budget carrier carried 9.9 percent more passengers last month than it did in Dec 2006, its load factor - a measure of available seats—fell to 78.9 percent from 81.2 percent during December.

EasyJet’s shares are now down 19 percent from the close of last year. Although some analysts are more optimistic for the year ahead and are looking to the GB Airways acquisition, continued fleet expansion and efficiency gains to boost earnings.

The Luton-based carrier said it carried 2.89 million passengers last month compared to the 2.63 million that flew with the airline during the same period of last year.

The budget airline said traffic for the year ending December 2007 was up 13.5 percent, easyJet said it carried 38.23 million passengers in the year to the end of last month compared to 33.67 million the same period of the previous year.

The carrier’s load factor for the same period was down 1.1 pct to 83.5 percent from 84.6 percent.