ESB results for 2014 are out today and they show a fall in operating profit of €132m to €552m - a fall of nearly 20%.

The company says the fall in profits is down to lower electricity wholesale prices due mainly to lower gas prices; repair to significant storm damage incurred during the first half of 2014; and a hit from maintenance and repair work at ESB's Moneypoint coal plant. Profit after tax was €215m, a fall of 58%, reflecting lower operating profit, and a link to the low interest rate environment in the UK. In 2014, ESB spent more on capital investment - €960m, an increase of €135m. It says the total dividend paid to the Irish exchequer over the last ten years has reached almost €1.5 billion.

Donal Flynn, ESB Finance Director, says that despite the drop in operating profits, 2014 was still a "solid" year for the group and there was a specific set of reasons for the profits drop. Mr Flynn says that in Ireland wholesale electricity prices are closely linked with gas prices and so this resulted in a decline in the margins of its generation business.  

Mr Flynn said it is too early to say if the ESB would be interested in being allowed to deduct electricity bills directly from wages and welfare payments. A proposal to do so with water bills is being considered by the Government. He said it would be something the ESB would consider but it was not something being sought at the moment.

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MORNING BRIEFS - A survey has found that 90% of Irish consumers believe there is no reward for loyalty in the Irish energy market. The survey was carried out by One Big Switch online from the over 5000 people who joined the Big Energy switch campaign this week. 90% of respondents believe they are not rewarded for their loyalty, and 41% of consumers have still been with their energy retailer for more than 3 years.

***Lagan Brick is creating 30 new jobs in Kingscourt in Co Cavan, at the site of the old Lagan Brick facility. It says this is made possible by a recent upturn in the Irish and UK markets. Lagan says it has seen an opportunity to meet increasing demand, particularly out of the UK by reinvesting in brick manufacturing here in Ireland. 

*** Philadelphia cream cheese and Caprisun is on the menu for Brazilian private equity firm 3G. The group - which controls Burger King and Heinz - is in advanced talks to buy Kraft Foods Group, in a deal that could be worth as much as $40 billion. Kraft shares jumped 15% in after-market trading following reports of the deal. And based on yesterday's closing share price of $61.32, Kraft was worth $36 billion.