Almost 100,000 Bord Gáis customers were in arrears by the end of December 2012, its annual report shows.

It has also installed over 62,000 pay-as-you-go meters to date, which are free of charge for customers in arrears.

Speaking today, the company's chief financial officer Michael O'Sullivan said the number of customers in arrears has dropped, but the situation remains challenging.

Mr O'Sullivan said arrears had fallen from 9% to 7%.

He said Bord Gáis had made significant investment in managing arrears by installing the meters.

The company also benefited from steps taken by the regulator to prevent "debt hopping", he said.

The company reported a 29% increase in pre-tax profits of €121m for 2012.