Opening Bell: eir returns to revenue growth, Airbnb popularity soars, Obama hears Norwegian Air concerns

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Eir, the country’s largest telecommunications company, has announced a €24m increase in operating profits to €505 million in the year to June – that’s up 5% on the previous year.

Group revenues were 4% higher at €1.3bn, in the former Eircom’s first year of annualised growth since 2008.

Operating costs at the firm remained broadly flat.

The past year has seen Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC invest €230m into eir, saving it €17m in interest payments on a bond refinancing programme. It also saw the launch of Eir Sport.

Eir chief executive Richard Moat hailed it as a landmark year for the firm:

"The transformation of our organisation in the past twelve months is clearly evident. We introduced our new invigorated brand ‘eir’ in September last year, and the recent launch of eir sport positions us as a new name in Irish broadcasting.

“We have a great platform for our new financial year and we are looking forward to the future with confidence."

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A new report shows there's been a surge in the popularity of Airbnb, despite critics claims that it is adding to the country's housing shortage.

There were over 6,000 properties to rent on Airbnb in Dublin last month.

Of those, 45% were offering one room or more, according to the Irish Times.

However housing expert Lorcan Sirr has warned that Airbnb hosts could be in danger of breaking several regulations:

"Last year, with the amount of entire apartments that were let out in Dublin city centre, we could have housed 650 families.

"And you do need planning permission if you're letting your entire property out and particularly your apartment out.

"The average charge for a B&B last year was €94 euro a night and that generates €22m worth of income and I'd be curious to see how much tax has been paid on that €22m."

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A number of major US hotel chain chief have called on US President Barack Obama to ensure the Dublin-based Norwegian Air's application to fly between Europe and the United States gets "immediate approval".

The chief executives of the likes of Hilton and Marriott have criticised the "inexcusable delay" in Norwegian being granted access to the market.

Norwegian Air International (NAI), a subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle, has been attempting to get a permit to enable it to fly between the US and Europe under the Open Skies agreement for two years. It is hoping to launch services from Cork to Boston and New York.

Despite the US Department of Transportation announcing its intention to grant a permit in April, the process has stalled. 

NAI, which is currently headquartered in Dublin and employs 80 Irish staff, set up a base in Ireland in order to benefit from the Open Skies agreement. 

However, there has been strong opposition to its transatlantic expansion plans from the aviation industry and politicians in the US, who believe the airline is trying to circumvent tough labour laws in Norway.

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The Irish Stock Exchange has reported on an "exceptional year" of trading in 2015, which say the firm enjoy a 25% increase in profits to €6.7m.

Revenue at the company climbed 12% to €27.8m, with the exchange increasing its headcount by 20% to allow for growth. 

Its total assets grew 17% to €59.8m. 

Some 70% of its revenue came from international business lines. The World Federation of Exchanges has confirmed that it was the leading exchange worldwide for listing bonds and investments funds at the end of the year.