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Nicholls Fuel Oils highest ranked family business in Belfast Telegraph's Top 100

See the Top 100 in full in tomorrow's Belfast Telegraph

By Margaret Canning

Published 11/05/2015

Adrian Doran, head of Barclays Corporate in Northern Ireland
Adrian Doran, head of Barclays Corporate in Northern Ireland

Family-run company Nicholls Fuel Oils in Co Londonderry has had close to a five-fold increase in profits – making it the highest-ranked family business at number 7 in the Belfast Telegraph’s Top 100, published tomorrow in association with Arthur Cox Solicitors.

The company founded by the Nicholl family in 1964 and led by husband and wife Hugh, 74, and Loreen, 71, saw a meteoric rise in pre-tax profits to £30.8m from £6.8m in its most recent registered accounts.

The Greysteel couple are directors of the business along with daughter Karen and sons Gary and Colin. 

The company employs 121 people in the wholesale and retail distribution of domestic, agricultural and commercial fuel oil, with 15 branches across the province.  It is also the operator of the well-know retail petrol brand Star Fuels.

The parent company has 25%-50% shareholdings in eight other fuel card businesses, including a company in Denmark and a company in France along with two in England and two in the Republic of Ireland.

The Belfast Telegraph Top 100 list of companies in association with Arthur Cox, complied by economist John Simpson, shows Northern Ireland's most profitable family-run companies are ranked among a list of businesses, which have all made profits of over £1m. 

All the firms featured have registered businesses in Northern Ireland, whether they are standalone businesses – in the case of Nicholl Fuel Oils - or part of wider international groups.

Leading economist John Simpson, who has compiled the list since its inception, said Nicholls Fuels was one of Northern Ireland’s many high-flying family-run companies.

He added: “I was surprised to find that we managed to easily find 100 companies who have made over £1m in a year.

“Among those Northern Ireland-registered companies we have looked at, there are many family-owned companies that are trading much more successfully than we might have thought.”

From the Barnetts of W&R Barnett, to the Haugheys of Norbrook, and the Agnews of the Henderson Group – as well as more recent arrivals like the Watsons of Chain Reaction Cycles - the Top 100 reveals the profits generated by Northern Ireland’s other illustrious dynasties. 

 Tomorrow also marks the relaunch of the newly-extended weekly supplement Business Telegraph, with features on Northern Ireland’s most interesting businesspeople and in-depth analysis from a team of Northern Ireland's best economists, and exclusive business news stories. 

 The Top 100 is compiled in order of pre-tax profits after ranking Northern Ireland businesses in order of the size of their workforce throughout the Top 100’s long history.

 Writing in the Top 100, Adrian Doran - the head of corporate banking in Barclays Bank in Northern Ireland - said: “This is the first year that the Belfast Telegraph has used profitability to compile its Top 100 list – and in my opinion it’s an important and symbolic change, because without profits there are no resources for continued investment in research and development, plant and machinery, or most importantly, people.  “Despite the inevitable uncertainties over the political environment and the wider global economy, the scene is set for our largest companies to continue to grow.”

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