Higher passenger numbers and increased commercial income boosted profits at Daa Group - which owns Dublin and Cork airports - last year.

The group said its profits rose by 6% to €133m last year, while turnover increased by 5% to €897m, with good growth in commercial activities, aeronautical income and increased sales at its international businesses. 

Daa said its operating costs increased by 4% to €426m, as it recruited almost 190 additional staff at its Irish airports and its overseas businesses. 

It said it will pay a dividend of €40m to the State for 2018. This brings its total dividend payments to €125m over the past four years.

Passenger numbers at Dublin Airport increased by 6% to a record 31.5 million last year, as the airport saw an additional 1.9 million passengers. 

16 new services were started at the airport last year, while six new airlines began operations from the country's biggest airport and additional capacity was added on 22 existing services.

Passenger numbers at Cork Airport increased by almost 4% to 2.4 million last year. Three new routes were introduced at Cork last year, and there were capacity expansions on 14 existing services.

Meanwhile, the international arm of Daa's travel retail business, ARI, reported after tax profits of €13m during the year. 

ARI operates stores in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific, and also holds the group's 20% stake in Düsseldorf Airport and its 11% stake in Hermes Airports in Cyprus.

Daa said that profits at ARI declined due to higher concession fees after recent contract renewals and the impact of a restructuring programme at its Cypriot airports. 

ARI signed deals to enter new markets in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia in 2018 and will operate stores at Abu Dhabi's new Midfield Terminal when it opens in late 2019.

"Daa had a good year in 2018, with our key financial and passenger metrics improving," its chief executive Dalton Philips said. 

He noted that Dublin Airport welcomed a record number of passengers, while Cork's traffic further improved.

"We made significant progress on our plans to deliver North Runway and the other vital infrastructure that is required at Dublin Airport," Mr Philips said. 

"The Group also continued to expand connectivity at the state's two largest airports, which is essential to allow the Irish economy to grow in a post-Brexit world," he added.

Daa also said that both Dublin and Cork have a strong pipeline of new and expanded services for this year and have made a positive start to 2019. 

Passenger numbers at Dublin Airport have increased by 7% so far this year while Cork's passenger numbers are up by 11%.