Co Cavan based building products firm Kingspan has said its earnings for the year to the end of December rose by 16% to €189.3m while its revenue grew by 6% to €1.8 billion.

n Ireland, which represents just 4% of its business, Kingspan said its insulated panel volumes are still "relatively low by historic comparison", but that there was significant growth in activity in 2014. That is likely to continue as Ireland gradually rebuilds itself, and the overhang from the 'boom' years gets absorbed, giving way to further newbuild opportunity, the company said.

Kingspan's chief executive Gene Murtagh says that conditions in its core markets are improving, and Kingspan's activity pipeline starting the new year is encouraging. Mr Murtagh says that 2014 was a fairly busy year on the acquisitions front for the company with five key deals agreed. Two of these were especially important - the deal to buy Joris Ide in Belgium and Vicwest in the US. The Kingspan CEO says he believes the most promising markets for the company this year include the UK and US - which combined make up 55% of the company's total business. Both of these markets are very strong and Kingspan is well positioned in them, he added. 

On Ireland, Mr Murtagh says the company is seeing a gradual improvement, which is good given the events witnessed in the Irish economy in recent years. While Kingspan's operations in Central Europe and Turkey have been affected by the recent political events in some of the neighbouring countries, Mr Murtagh says he does not expect that weakness to continue for very long. The return of stability to the region will also result in strong opportunities for the company, he adds. Mr Murtagh states that the overall outlook for the company is "muted but positive".

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MORNING BRIEFS - Hotel occupancy has returned to pre-crash levels, driven by a big jump in visitors from the US and Canada. According to research from Failte Ireland, an extra half a million visitors helped push the occupancy rate for hotels and guesthouses to 64% last year - the highest level since 2007. Figures showed 7.3 million foreign visitors came to Ireland during the year, up 586,000 on 2013. North American visitors numbers jumped 15% to 1.2 million. And in a sector that saw so many jobs lost over past year, Failte Ireland says over 33,000 jobs were created by the hospitality sector since 2011. It now supports 205,000 jobs - 11% of employment in the country overall. Visitors from Britain - Ireland's main tourism market - grew by 8% to 3.1 million. Visitors from mainland Europe were up 7% to 2.5 million. Domestic demand for hotels also grew slightly - domestic and Northern Irish tourists and business travellers account for seven in ten of all hotel bed nights.

*** A 20% rise in rent levels for office space in the Dublin office market is expected this year. According to a review by property firm HWBC, prime Grade A offices in Dublin City Centre rose 30% in 2014 to €45 per square foot. It says there will be no significant completions in Dublin until well into 2016.