AER LINGUS RESULTS BUT NO CEO YET - Aer Lingus's 2004 results have been published. The headline figures include a 29% increase in operating profits to €107m. The costs of an 8.8% reduction in staff numbers to just under 4,000 put a €97m dent in that figure. Passenger numbers were up 5.5% to €7m.

Executive chairman John Sharman agreed that there was little room for manoeuvre, though its operating continued to edge up. He said the business was generating cash and profits, but in a market where the airline was reducing its fares in response to the low-fares environment.

Mr Sharman said the first quarter of 2005 was in line with expectations, adding that a conservative hedging policy had protected it from the full force of the increase in oil prices. He said oil prices were 70% higher than a year ago.

The chairman said he was not in a position to comment on the search for a new chief executive to replace Willie Walsh.

On safety, Aer Lingus said it worked very well with the authorities at Dublin Airport, but it had put in place measures to reinforce security and would be conducting a 'post-mortem' following a recent security audit at the airport.

On the coming Cabinet decision on Aer Lingus, Mr Sharman said the issue was not who owned the airline, but access to capital, as it needed investment in its long-haul operations.

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