Posted on Tuesday 6 August 2019 by Ulster Business


Ulster Business editor John Mulgrew looks at the changing sectoral landscape of this year’s Top 100 Northern Ireland Companies and pulls out some of the interesting stories of the business list

It’s hard to believe a year has gone by since the last Ulster Business Top 100 Northern Ireland Companies list was put to bed. It’s the flagship 200-page double-edition of the magazine, and it’s something which takes the efforts of both the magazine team, contributors, the businesses involved and those who continue to support the magazine, to make it happen.

This year marks another significant uplift in the performance of the Top 100 businesses across Northern Ireland, with the sales barrier to entry up by around £12m.

In the last year, turnover among this year’s Top 100 has risen by more than 9% to £24.8bn.
However, unlike last year, overall pre-tax profits fell, when considering all of those making this year’s list. That was in part due to large flips from some of the larger companies, including Bombardier – which posted a big profit in the 2018 list, but had losses of almost £40m a year later.

In the last 10 years or so, I’ve come into contact with many of the companies making the list, written about them, and met chief executives and managing directors.

Last year, one of the stand out performances was from W&R Barnett – a Belfast-based company which operates commodities businesses across the UK and beyond. The magazine profiled boss William Barnett last year, and snapped him outside the firm’s head office – which belies the scale and size of the firm – just a short distance from our offices at Clarendon Dock. It remains Northern Ireland’s second largest company, and since last year has grown its turnover to £1.23bn.

In fact, the Clarendon Dock area is home to a raft of Northern Ireland’s biggest firms. Standing at one corner of the development, you can spot three firms with a combined turnover well into 10 figures.

That includes Devenish Nutrition. In the last year, aside from the accolades bestowed on boss Owen Brennan – including an OBE and a lifetime achievement gong at the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards – the company has grown turnover by 20% to hit £227.2m, while pre-tax profits have increased to £1.66m.

Among those making the list for the first time in 2019 are construction firm Henry Brothers, Actavo (Northern Ireland), McBurney Transport and TW Scott & Sons.

Another huge success story in this year’s list, and a business which has not only joined it but surged to 69, is Thompson Aero Seating. The Portadown firm, which produces top end aircraft seats, has increased its sales to £105m – up 90% from £55m a year earlier.

Burgeoning giants of technology, such as Kainos and First Derivatives have increased their positions once again, but traditional industries are also seeing sales rise.

The three largest car dealers in Northern Ireland – Charles Hurst, Donnelly Group and Issac Agnew – have each seen their sales rising, year-on-year. Meanwhile, food giants such as Dale Farm, Foyle Food Group, Lacpatrick and Linden Foods have also enjoyed turnover growth in the last year.

Our analyst Jonathan Cushley delves into the details further on in the magazine and breaks down the key numbers, figures and metrics.

It paints another extremely interesting picture of Northern Ireland’s diverse and evolving business landscape and you can clearly see – while stalwarts of industry remain in growth mode – the raft of firms within life sciences, technology and other emerging industries are beginning to rise up the list with burgeoning turnover.


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