Paddy Power has reported a record annual pre-tax profit for 2014 of €167m, up 21% on the previous year's figure. On top of its dividend the company has also today announced plans to return €8 per share, around €392m in cash, to shareholders.

Paddy Power's chief executive Andy McCue says the decision to return €8 per share to shareholders comes on the back of record profits for last year and is based on the company's very strong cash flow and confidence in its organic strategy which is mainly about investing in mobile. Mr McCue says the company is not running out of opportunities to invest its cash in, adding that the company's focus is on building its lead in the mobile market. He points out that about 80% of its customers transacted with the company on their mobiles in December and Paddy Power in the market leader in mobile both in the UK and Ireland and also in its business in Australia - which he described as "flying". 

Rival Ladbrokes recently announced a "fundamental review" of its Irish betting shop chain and said it may have to take "drastic action" to stem losses here. Mr McCue says that Paddy Power's Irish retail team have done a "great job" over the last year with a 15% increase in operating profits and 20 new shops opened. He says the company awaits the Ladbrokes review with interest, adding that the company likes competition and actually thrives on it. The company is also looking to open up more new shops this year, in areas where they do not overlap their existing outlets.

MORNING BRIEFS - Alongside its annual results this morning, Barclays reports it has set aside £1.69 billion, €2.3 billion at today's exchange rate, to cover various legal and regulatory issues affecting the British bank. That includes £1.25 billion to cover expected fines in the US related to its involvement in rigging currency rates in order to profit at the expense of its clients.

*** There are five Irish billionaires among the 1,826 across the globe identified by the annual Forbes Rich List. The list underlines the old adage that the rich get richer with 200 people joining the list over the past 12 months. The Irish-born on the rich list are Glen Dimplex founder Martin Naughton, Denis O'Brien and Dermot Desmond. Two other billionaires qualify as Irish citizens Campbell soup heir John Dorrance and Pallonji Mistry whose business interests include Tetley Tea and carmaker Jaguar Land Rover. Of the 1,826 billionaires on the list, fewer than 200 are women.

*** Google has announced plans to build its own mobile network in the US. Speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president of products, said the internet company did not intend to become a mobile network operator "at scale". He said Google, which has previously voiced its frustration at the limits of mobile broadband services in the US, hoped to show other operators the way to do it on a small scale and encourage them to adopt any good ideas it can come up with.