The forecast gave Ryanair's share price wings

London (AFP) - Irish no-frills airline Ryanair on Friday lifted its annual profit forecast, citing recent strong sales, in an update that sent its share price rising strongly.

Net profit is now expected to stand at between 950 million euros and 1.05 billion euros ($1.06 billion and $1.67 billion) for its current financial year that ends in March, the Dublin-based airline said in a brief statement.

That compared with prior guidance of between 800 million euros and 900 million euros.

“As a consequence of this better Christmas/New Year travel period and stronger forward bookings in the fourth quarter, Ryanair believes it is appropriate to raise its full year guidance range,” said the carrier.

It cautioned however that its loss-making Austrian division Laudamotion had underperformed, with average fares lower than expected due to intense competition particularly from Lufthansa.

Shares in Ryanair were up 5.7 percent at 16.1 euros in late afternoon Dublin trading.

“Ryanair shares are in demand as the airline upped its full-year profit guidance,” said David Madden, analyst at trading group CMC Markets UK.

Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, said “Ryanair has defied fears about the airline market suffering from weaker demand and too much supply”.

Ryanair is scheduled to publish its third-quarter earnings on February 3.