Profits at An Post surge by 400pc while it closes offices
State-owned postal company An Post has seen its profits surge after the closure of post offices and the sale of its stake in the One4All gift voucher operation.
Profits shot up by 400pc to €41m last year.
It comes after 151 post offices closed, mainly in rural areas, and the price of stamps rose. A stamp for a standard letter is now €1.
The profit of €41m was before transformation costs, pension interest and taxation.
It compares with a profit of €8.4m for 2017.
Revenues were up 7pc to close to €900m.
Last summer An Post announced the locations of 151 post offices it has closed as part of a restructuring plan.
The greatest number of closures were in Galway, followed by Donegal, Cork, Kerry, Mayo and Wexford.
Post offices in 25 of the State's 26 counties are closing as part of the plan, with Dublin being the exception.
The shutting of the post offices has proved hugely controversial, especially in rural areas where commercial activities are under huge threat.
There are now 950 post offices left.
Ninety have been refurbished or relocated in the last year.
In 2016 An Post made a loss of €12.4m, according to chief executive David McRedmond.
He said the post office network has now rebuilt its foundation with an agreed deal with the postmasters.
"In 2018 we built the foundations to transform An Post's core activities.
"The focus on e-commerce is seeing parcel volumes grow by almost 40pc, and the post office network has a radical modernisation programme underway."
He said operating costs are shifting into new areas of growth and the business is strongly cash positive.
Last year An Post sold its majority stake in The Gift Voucher Shop, which operates the One4All gift voucher scheme. It sold for €100m, netting the post office company €54m.
An Post has an 11pc shareholder in the operator of the National Lottery, Premier Lotteries Ireland.
The company said the revenue rise last year was driven by increased parcel volumes, the full year impact of price adjustments, and the volumes generated from the presidential election and referendum.
Mr McRedmond said: "In 2019 we aim to automate core parcel operations; refresh the brand, marketing and customer interfaces; launch An Post Money and An Post Commerce; and develop a leaner, more flexible corporate centre."
The company is also aiming to launch a mortgage product with an interest rate that will undercut the banks, but this is unlikely to be available until early next year.
An Post has reduced its staffing by 400 through voluntary redundancies last year, but it has increased its staffing by 200 in other areas.
The company's pension fund deficit fell to €48m, from €55m in the previous year.
Mr McRedmond said a €14m investment is being made in redefining the post office network, including reducing the number of post offices, modernising the postmaster contract and updating the An Post brand.