ESB profits soar

ESB has announced profits after tax of €194m for 2012 and said it invested €765m in infrastructure projects during the year. The company saw revenue rise to €3.26 billion in 2012, up from €2.91 billion the previous year.

In its annual report, published today, it said its board is recommending a dividend of E78m. This brings the total dividend to the Exchequer to almost €1 billion over the past decade. During the year, ESB raised €1.1 billion through the issue of bonds, mainly to European investors, which it said will support its ongoing infrastructure investment programme according to RTE News.

It said that over €600m in finance facilities were raised to fund the construction of the Carrington power station in the UK. Today’s report also noted that two credit rating agencies, Standard and Poor’s and Fitch, upgraded their rating outlook on the company from negative to stable. ”This reflects ESB’s successful funding and roust financial performance, as well as Ireland’s overall progress,” the company said. Electric Ireland, ESB’s energy retail business, saw a return to profits last year while customers numbers rose by 80,000 between electricity and gas.

ESB chief executive Pat O’Doherty said that many of the company’s customers are experiencing ”considerable hardship” and it continues to work sensitively with them to help them manage their bills. He noted a 33pc reduction in disconnections over the last two years. During the year, the company said it continued to focus on cost reduction and it said that almost 1,000 staff have left since 2010. The ESB last month said it would sell its 50pc shareholding in each of its international tolling plants – Marchwood Power Ltd in the UK and Bizkaia Energia in Spain.

ESB’s energy retail business, now trading as Electric Ireland, returned to profitability last year. Customer numbers have increased by 80,000 but financial hardship is still creating difficulties for many.