By Margaret Canning Belfast Telegraph Business Editor
Welcome to the Belfast Telegraph Top 100 Companies 2019 in assocation with Arthur Cox. We are proud that the esteemed and well-established legal practice is supporting our must-read guide to Northern Ireland’s most profitable companies for the fifth year in a row.
It has been an incredible year for business in Northern Ireland, and not always for the best of reasons. Brexit has loomed large as a complicating factor. But in the absence of a clear way forward from Westminster, companies have been simply doing their best to keep doing business.
Membership groups like CBI NI and Manufacturing NI resoundingly backed the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement although the future of that accord is uncertain, and we await the next Brexit deadline of October
with some trepidation.
But despite the turmoil of Brexit, and the continued impact on NI plc of the lack of an Executive, the Top 100 provides an opportunity to reflect on what has gone right for business this year. And it was gratifying to hear from one contributor that it’s a pleasure to write for the Top 100 as it’s always a celebration of business.
We’re pleased to report that the pre-tax profit threshold has again increased this year. And after years of dominance by Danske Bank, we have a new number one company.
Nonetheless, Danske and the other three main banks in Northern Ireland continue to dominate the top 10 — and to change the money in our pockets through the introduction of plastic notes.
It’s encouraging to see the continued strong performance of our homegrown, and still independent, trading companies like W&R Barnett, Norbrook Holdings, Almac and SHS Group. Firms have continued to show an appetite for acquisitions and others have launched expansion plans.
Change is inevitable in business, even without political complications. You’ll note changes at the top of some of our companies, including the departure of Janet Mccollum, Nicholas Tarrant and Gary Montgomery from Moy Park, NIE Networks and Thompson Aero Seating respectively, where they’ve been replaced by Chris Kirke, Paul Stapleton and Andres Budo.
Some one-time stalwarts of the Top 100 are absent. Bus giant Wrights Group doesn’t make it after pre-tax profits went from £10.7m in 2016 to £1.5m in 2017. And Bombardier in Belfast is also out, after an operating loss of £15m. The news from the Canadian manufacturer that it’s putting the Northern Ireland division on the market means that we should have a new aerospace name in the Top 100 in coming years.
Most companies helped us update their entries — in the process, letting us know about some fascinating innovations and diversifications.
We hope you find the Top 100 a reminder that regardless of what Brexit brings, business in Northern Ireland will keep doing its very best.