By Mar­garet Can­ning Belfast Tele­graph Busi­ness Ed­i­tor

Belfast Telegraph - Top 100 Northern Ireland Companies - - CONTENTS -

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.

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