ESB Group has reported an operating profit of €597m for last year, down over 6% on the previous year.

The energy company - which includes an energy supply business and its Electric Ireland division - said the decrease was largely as a result of weaker sterling, which affected its business in Northern Ireland. 

Negative movements on interest rate swaps linked to Northern Ireland inflation also impacted the company's profit after interest and tax, which was down 65% to €186m. 

That pushed the dividend the group paid to the State down to €116m, a reduction from the dividend of €214m it paid in 2015.

The ESB also said it had paid almost €1.5 billion to the Exchequer over the past decade.

In today's results statement, the group said it had invested €897m in energy infrastructure during the year.

Operating highlights during the year included bringing high speed fibre access to over 50,000 premises in towns around the country.

The company also reduced electricity prices by 6% and gas prices by 5% for its customers.

It also completed three new sub-stations in the southwest of the country, which will directly support new renewable energy generation, while it commissioned the Carrington plant, a combined cycle gas turbine near Manchester in the UK.

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The group's chief executive Pat O'Doherty said that 2016 was characterised by strong operational performances across all areas of the business.

"The successful operation of the new Carrington plant along with excellent plant availability at 93%, resulted in strong performance from the Generation and Wholesale markets business - notwithstanding the challenging operating environment," Mr O'Doherty added.

He said the group's network businesses continued to successfully deliver significant capital and maintenance programmes in line with their regulatory contracts.

"Electric Ireland, ESB's retail arm, delivered a solid financial performance while maintaining its strong focus on customer service and providing value for all customers," he added.