Posted on Thursday 4 April 2019 by Ulster Business

Next 200

The Ulster Business Next 200 is a snapshot of Northern Ireland’s small and medium-sized businesses. John Lavery of Grant Thornton crunches the numbers and picks out some of the top facts and figures

Ulster Business has again partnered with Dun & Bradstreet to provide an insight into the leading companies in Northern Ireland and their contribution to the economy.

The Next 200 profiles those firms who sit outside the Ulster Business Top 100, and showcases the key role small and medium-sized companies play in the Northern Ireland economy.

These 200 firms play a vital role in the economy and the list includes growing firms from across Northern Ireland who will likely sit in the Top 100 list at some stage.

All companies included in the list are based in Northern Ireland and data is based on the most recent publicly filed accounts at Companies House, compiled by Dun & Bradstreet. The list provides a snapshot of the 200 firms ranked by turnover.

Turnover growth continues with a total recorded turnover of £8.3bn across the 200 – this cohort of companies has increased its turnover by 8.5% year-on-year.

Turnover growth was evenly spread across the cohort with more than 80% of companies in the table reporting growth. Close to half the list recorded double-digit percentage turnover growth.

These are positive trends given modest economic growth levels and uncertainties caused by Brexit, global trade ‘wars’ and the lack of an Executive here in Northern Ireland.

This group of 200 firms is a dynamic cohort when looking at the broader economy. Their turnover growth is in stark contrast to the figures from the Annual Business Inquiry which estimates aggregate turnover for the whole NI non-financial business sector.

The Annual Business Inquiry reported a decrease in turnover of 1.7% across the Northern Ireland.

Profits and equity
The reality of profitability paints a positive picture. Profits after tax across the 200 were close to £500m. Nine out of 10 companies in the group reported a profit, with the average profit margin at 6% of turnover. Over a fifth of the Next 200 realised a profit of over 10%. Healthy profits combined with growing turnover indicates a vibrant group of firms. The combined net worth of the Next 200 is £2.9bn, marginally higher than the 2018 total.

With an estimated 26,190 people employed across the 200 companies, they play a significant role in providing employment locally, contributing around 3% of all jobs in Northern Ireland, as measured by the Labour Force Survey (February 2019). Average employment across the 200 firms was 131 staff.

A diverse grouping
The Next 200 is a diverse grouping with companies from a range of sectors and with varying employment numbers and turnover levels represented.

The largest sectors by some margin are wholesale and retail trade, accounting for £2.7bn of the Next 200’s turnover and manufacturing companies in the list generating £2.1bn turnover.

Combined, these two sectors account for close to 60% of the list’s turnover. Real estate, renting and business activities (17%) Construction (9%) transport and storage (6%) round out the top five sectors in the list.

The largest employer on the list, Mount Charles Group, boasts almost 1,500 staff, close to 6% of total employment across the 200. Other significant employers include Concentrix (1,200), Decora Blinds (800) and Liberty IT (500).

Turnover levels across the 200 firms ranges from £72m to £26m, averaging £41m. In terms of location the 200 companies are spread across 30 different locations in Northern Ireland. The largest concentration of firms is in Belfast, 29%, with 11% in the Mid Ulster (Dungannon/Cookstown) area and 10% located in Craigavon.

This diversity is an important trait as it highlights growth coming from a range of industries and from companies based across Northern Ireland, with companies based in every county and in the majority of major towns.

The information was gathered in February 2019 and is based on the latest publicly available information at the time of writing.


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