ESB has reported a 23% rise in profit after tax for last year of €415m. ESB said it further reduced its operating costs last year and that despite difficult economic conditions and more competition, the results reflect a solid performance across the group. It said it directly contributed over €2 billion to the Irish economy through dividends, investments, taxes and jobs. ESB employs 7,500 staff, and more though contractors and service providers.

ESB's finance and commercial director Donal Flynn said the company's cost reduction programme, which it started in 2020, remains on track. Mr Flynn said the company has achieved €250m from the €280m cuts it planned, including payroll savings of €51m last year.

It also completed the first part of its asset disposal programme to generate €400m in special dividends for the Government. Mr Flynn said the company has a workforce of 7,500 but 15 or 20 years ago, it would have employed over 13,000 people. About 1,000 employees have left the company through natural attrition and voluntary redundancies over the last three years.

ESB has experienced a tough start to 2014 due to the winter storms crossing the country over the first couple of months of the year. Mr Flynn said the company was pleased with the way it was able to respond to the storms - the worst the country has seen in about 20 years - but said it would be forced to take about €30m of exceptional costs associated with them the first quarter of this year.

There was a rise in the number of Irish directors of UK companies last year - that number rose to over 50,000 for the first time, so now 16% of all company directors there is Irish. The research from communications firm Eulogy, which analysed records at Companies House, show that the Irish are way ahead of the next nationality in terms of company directorships - Indian - at just over 22,000. The report also reveals that the number of female Irish directors in the UK has increased by almost 10%, closing the gender gap to two to one. 

Irishman Adrian Brady, head of Eulogy, said that the business relationship between the UK and Ireland has changed through the different generations, adding that things like the peace process have had a big impact. He also said that the type of Irish immigrant has changed greatly from the 1960s and 1970s with the current Irish person moving to the UK now younger and much better educated. Mr Brady said there has been a real economic awareness amongst the UK business community of the value of Ireland - Britain exports more to Ireland than to Russia, India and China combined.

Eulogy's research also found that total turnover in companies run by Irish directors is over €300 billion, which is double the level of Irish GDP. He said this figure suggests a huge opportunity for both the Irish Government and Irish businesses to do more business with Irish people in the UK. The survey also showed that the largest growth of Irish directors is in the 36-40 age range, while the 18-25 age group decreased by 10%, with younger people heading off to Australia and Canada, Mr Brady suggests.

MORNING BRIEFS - Four people, including Northern Ireland businessman Edward Haughey, have died after a civilian helicopter crashed in thick fog in Britain. Mr Haughey, later Lord Ballyedmond, was one of the richest men in Northern Ireland, and was chairman of Norbrook, the largest privately owned pharmaceutical company in the world. On his return from the US in the 1960s Mr Haughey founded a veterinary pharmaceutical manufacturing business in Newry - Norbrook Labs. It is one of the UK's top pharmaceutical exporters, exports to 120 countries. Its head office is still in Newry, but it manufactures on four continents. The company employs 1,500 people in Newry and a further 1,500 worldwide. Norbrook makes several drugs, the most well-known of which are the antibiotic drugs Noroclav and Betamox. The firm is a world leader in contract manufacturing, and is also committed to research and development.