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Belfast Telegraph's Top 100 shows profits are up for 65% of firms on list

By John Mulgrew

Businesses in the Belfast Telegraph Top 100 Companies in association with Arthur Cox saw profits increase by an average of 20% in just one year, according to the author of the list.

The Belfast Telegraph Top 100 Companies charts a range of successes, from Danske Bank at number one with profits of £117m, to Lough Erne Investments - the owner of a firm making cooked egg products - which came in at number 100 with pre-tax profits of £3.3m.

According to economist John Simpson, who compiled the list, businesses on average have seen profits growing by a fifth over the last 12 months.

He was speaking at the launch of the Top 100 Companies list, held at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast and attended by key business leaders from the top firms on the chart.

Kieran McGarrigle, head of finance at the publication's sponsor Arthur Cox, welcomed guests to the event. Mr McGarrigle said: "It's fantastic to look around the room and see so many leading figures joining together to recognise the individual and collective achievements of the business community.

"When we consider the wider political and economic uncertainty in Northern Ireland, the Top 100 serves as a reminder of the depth and breadth of talent in the Northern Ireland corporate world.

"The uncertainty of the course of the Brexit negotiations and the political uncertainty at Stormont may provide challenges ahead for our businesses, but the Top 100 is a demonstration of the Northern Ireland business community's resilience and determination to succeed.

"Congratulations, once again, to every company featured on the Top 100 list."

Mr Simpson, who has compiled the Belfast Telegraph Top 100 every year since 1995, said this year's list demonstrated that profit levels were rising. He said: "At this point, I am reasonably sure I can find 250 businesses in Northern Ireland who are declaring pre-tax profits of £500,000 or more.

"Going up the scale, I can find 174 businesses who are declaring pre-tax profits of over £1m every year... that represents a great strength.

"In 2015, you had to have pre-tax profits of £1.8m (to make the Top 100 list), a year a go in order to qualify you had to have pre-tax profits of £2.2m. This year, you had to have pre-tax profits of £3.2m. I don't think it takes a genius to say that some things have gotten better, significantly better... the bar has been raised and there is something significant happening."

He said 65 of the 100 firms had improved their profits: "The median average profit increase is 20%... I think that is well worth being aware of."

CBI regional director Angela McGowan also addressed those gathered at the event.

She said: "As this list demonstrates, we have built up a host of successful companies and we want many more to be created in the years to come. For that to happen, local firms both large and small, need a smooth transition with arrangements with our largest trading partner.

"But we will also need policy-makers to realise the unique circumstances of the local economic environment, structure, and its challenges."

She said there must be a trade deal in place amid Brexit negotiations to ensure it does not fall back to World Trade Organisation rules.

"We want to see the next UK Government guarantee the right to remain for EU citizens working in the UK, and by December this year confirm a new migration system that will enable firms to access skills."

Kevin Kingston, chief executive of Danske Bank, said it was delighted to be titled Northern Ireland's number one company for a third year in a row.

But he added: "There is no doubt that in Northern Ireland the business community finds itself in a more uncertain environment than we have been in for some time, but the worst thing that we as a business community could do is to stifle our ambitions for progress and growth."

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