Posted on Tuesday 14 August 2018 by Ulster Business

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This is now the 30th compilation of the Ulster Business Top 100 companies listing and shows that exceptional trading results have been posted by the major businesses, writes Jonathan Cushley.

The performance of the Top 100 Northern Ireland companies shows growth across, sales, pre-tax profit and shareholder value – with year-on-year profits for the companies showing 78% growth.

The Ulster Business Top 100 listing incorporates the results of Northern Ireland based companies, either Northern Ireland registered or when a significant portion of their business is driven and transacted through the province.

In the vast majority of cases the figures utilised in compiling the listing correspond to either early 2018, 2017 or late 2016 financial year end.

Since the inception of the Top 100 listing 30 years ago, turnover has been used as the key identifier of performance, however, we also review pre-tax profit and shareholder value (tangible net worth) providing a rounded view on individual company and Top 100 performance.

For benchmarking purposes comparisons have been made with previous Top 100 editions. These comparisons will include results for companies that are no longer included in the current Top 100 listing, this is due to the fluidity of financial performance.



Sales generated by the companies listed in the 2018 Top 100 increased by 8.3% to £23.85bn from £21.88bn.

This year has seen some exceptional sales performance, none more so than from John Graham Holdings Ltd, which trades as Graham Construction. It posted sales to March 2018 of £767.6m up from £565.9m. John Graham moved from 10th position to fourth in the list, behind perennial number one, Moy Park Ltd, W&R Barnett Ltd, LCC Group and Dunbia Ltd.

Glen Electric Ltd, which has been a staple of the Top 100 since it’s inception have unfortunately dropped out of the listing in 2018 due to the fact they no longer file consolidated accounts for the companies owned by the Newry-based business.

W & R Barnett Ltd, the international commodity trading, storage and agri-business based in Belfast continued the strong sales growth which has been noted in previous years and the group have now broken the £1bn barrier – sales of £1.1bn represent a year-on-year sales growth of 17.7%.

Within the body of the Top 100 two companies Lacpatrick Dairies (NI) Ltd and McKibbin Holdings Ltd do not show prior year comparative figures. This is due to its recent incorporation.

During the compilation of this year’s Top 100 the editorial team made a decision not to include both Fidessa Group plc and Qualcomm Technologies International Ltd from the listing, while it is accepted that both companies are supportive of the Northern Ireland economy by providing employment and utilising research and development skillsets. As multi-national organisations headquartered outside Northern Ireland and maintaining branch locations within the province it was felt that their financial figures do not provide a fair reflection of their impact on the Northern Ireland economy.

Sales per employee across the Top 100 during their last financial year was £260,442.



As mentioned the turnover of the Top 100 increased by some 9%, however the profitability of the companies increased by nearly 79% (78.7%) - rising from £517.5m to £924.9m.

This represents an increase in profit margin (sales/pre tax profit) across the listing of 3.9% compared to a previous year margin of 2.4%.

Northern Ireland Water Ltd continues to be the most profitable business in the province posting profits of £102.9m against sales of £422.4m a margin of 24.4%, Moy Park Ltd posted profits of £59.7m (profit margin – 4.3%).

Of the 100 companies 14 declared losses for their last financial year. The biggest impact on the Top 100 performance came from C&C Holdings (NI) Ltd, an investment holding company with assets including Tennents Caledonian, Tennents NI and Magners GB Ltd., which declared a loss of £172.4m due to an impairment of financial asset.

Profit for each employee across the Top 100 during their last financial year was £10,098.



The final measure of a company’s success that we review is its value to its shareholders. In its simplest form this is calculated as the shareholders’ funds (issued capital) + retained earnings – intangible assets.

The value of this year’s Top 100 Northern Ireland Companies sits at £6.6bn.

Eight of the companies showed a negative tangible net worth, a condition in which a company’s liabilities exceed its assets.

The shareholders return for the 100 companies equates to profit/tangible net worth as a percentage -13.94%

Sales to equity ratio defined as turnover/tangible net worth, indicates how many pounds are generated with each pound of investment – for the latest filed results this equates to 3.59.



The companies within the Top 100 listing, as declared in their latest filed annual accounts, employed a total of 91,600 employees. Moy Park Ltd is number one in the overall listing also employs the most people – 9,620.

The top 10 companies employ over 43% of the total Top 100 workforce.



Since the inception of the Top 100, some 30 years ago we have periodically reviewed the geographic locations of the included companies.

This year saw a slight swing in company location, with a total of 68 businesses located in the east of the province – a decrease of four on the 2017 listing.



A date of the end of June has been used as a cut of the inclusion of accounts within this compilation of the Top 100 listing. Data has been compiled through an amalgamation of Dun & Bradstreet’s Hoovers analytical tool and UK Companies House.


1. Short Brothers PLC, KN Networks Group Ltd and Lacpatrick Dairies (NI) Ltd, file accounts in US dollars. (Short Brothers PLC) and the latter two companies file accounts in euro. To allow for fair comparison the companies figures have been converted to sterling at the currency conversion rate applicable at their fiscal year end.

2. Golf Holdings Ltd owns both James E McCabe Ltd and Philip Russell Ltd. Golf Holdings does not file consolidated accounts and therefore both subsidiary companies are included in the listing providing a fair reflection of their standing.

3. Musgrave Distribution ltd and Musgrave Retail Partners (NI) Ltd are separate legal entities filing individual accounts in Northern Ireland.

4. AES Ballylumford Ltd and AES Kilroot Power Ltd are separate legal entities filing individual Northern Ireland Accounts.

5. Lagan Construction Group Holdings Ltd entered administration on 5/3/18. Currently they have filed accounts for the year end 31/03/16 – their 31/03/17 accounts were due to be filed on or before 31/12/17 and are overdue. Due to the size of the group prior to administration the editorial team retained the company within the listing.



Dun & Bradstreet provides data and analytics to help businesses manage their relationships with prospects, suppliers, clients and partners. Nearly 90% of the Fortune 500, and companies of every size around the world, rely on Dun & Bradstreet data, insights and analytics.


For more information visit or follow @dnbukteam


Jonathan Cushley is an independent risk management consultant with over 33 years’ experience supporting business growth and sales development through the use of data.


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