Dublin headquartered DCC has announced a 21% rise in its operating profit for the year to the end of March 2017. The energy, healthcare and technology company said it made £363.6 million over the 12 month period, following a 17.4% rise in continuing revenues to £12.270 billion.

DCC owns home heating and retail petrol stations across Europe, and it was this area of its business that saw the biggest gains in the year. "We had particularly strong growth in the energy business - 24% growth there and that was the strongest driver of our growth," said DCC's chief executive Tommy Breen.

DCC's energy division represents around 68% of its profit, and it has continued to grow through acquisitions and rising sales. In Ireland it operates the Flogas and Emo brands as well as GreatGas, but it has a relatively small retail presence compared to the likes of Topaz and Applegreen. 


According to Mr Breen, that is largely because the right growth opportunity has not presented itself so far.
"We have substantial presences in the British, Scandinavian and French markets in the retail sector and we announced during the year that we bought a significant business from ExxonMobile in Norway," he said. "We have a small presence in Ireland but that's really driven by opportunity and there hasn't been the right opportunity for us, but over time that might change."

One opportunity the company's energy division has found is in the Asian market, with DCC last month announcing the acquisition of some Shell assets in Hong Kong and Macau. The move marks a departure for DCC, which had previously stayed within Europe, but Mr Breen said the move had been in the planning for some time. "We had been talking about this for a while - not specifically that opportunity," Mr Breen said. "We've been saying if we could get the right opportunity to get a presence outside of Europe that, thinking long-term, it would provide new growth opportunities for us. We hope that Hong Kong can provide a base for us to grow an LPG business in South East Asia."

One area that DCC is no longer looking for opportunities in is waste management, with the firm announcing the sale of its Environmental division last month. Environmental made up the smallest piece of DCC's profit line - just 5% - and the sector has had its fair share of ups and downs. That made its sale a logical one for Mr Breen.

He said the firm was happy with the £212m price-tag it secured from private equity firm Exponent. "We had really focused very hard on driving organic growth in that business and it had performed really well," he said. "We just felt given the scale of that business relative to our other businesses, the right thing for DCC was to dispose of it if we got the right price of it."

The last of the big announcements made by DCC in recent weeks was the decision by Mr Breen to step down from his role as company CEO. He said that while he felt the time was right, his 31 years of service for DCC - including nine years at the helm - made it a somewhat bittersweet decision. "It's always going to be a bit of a wrench when you've done something for 31 years but one of the principle responsibilities of a board and a chief executive is to think of succession," he said. "That's something that I have been thinking about for a little while, I'm very motivated to hand over in an orderly way, we've a very obvious internal successor in Donal Murphy and it just felt like the timing was right," he added.

***
MORNING BRIEFS - The world's second biggest mobile operator, Vodafone, has reported a €6.1 billion loss for the year to the end of March. The company was dragged lower by its Indian unit, which is in the middle of a merging with its rival Idea Cellular. However Vodafone also reported a rise in earnings and said its free cash flow grew to more than €4 billion, thanks to lower spending and stabilising average revenue from its contract customers.

*** Oil prices rose overnight after Saudi Arabia and Russia signalled their willingness to extend a production cut to March of next year. OPEC and other leading oil producing nations agreed to cap output in September of last year in an attempt to push up prices - but that deal is due to expire in the coming months. The suggestion that those involved might extend it out to 2018 helped to add as much as 3% to the price of a barrel of both Brent and US crude overnight, with Brent reaching as high as $52.52. The effectiveness of the OPEC cap has been questioned, however, as it has failed to push prices higher than they were before the deal was agreed.

*** UK budget airline EasyJet has racked up large half-year losses after being stung by the collapse in the value of the Brexit-hit pound and the later timing of Easter. EasyJet reported a £236m pre-tax loss in the six months to March 31, which compares with an £18m loss the same time last year. The airline said that the impact of the timing of Easter into the second half of the year stood at around £45m while currency woes cost it £82m in the six month period.