Company Report: W&R Barnett
In business turnover, range of assets and scale of employment, W&R Barnett is Northern Ireland’s largest private sector business, headquartered in Belfast but with subsidiary units in several countries.
It’s NI’s largest international grain trader and also trades in derivatives, oils and molasses, the operation of dockside facilities, manufacture of animal feeds, and specialises in horse breeding.
In addition, the business manufactures corrugated board and the design and manufacture of corrugated cases and packaging solutions. Late in 2016, through Boxes and Packaging (UK), the group spent £13m to acquire Boxshop Ltd.
The trading operations increased dramatically as a result of the acquisition in 2011 of the United Molasses Group. During more recent years the group made further acquisitions. In December it acquired Hungarian-based Argos Feed Group ZRT through United Molasses Marketing.
The group owns or has large shareholdings in 77 trading subsidiaries, many outside the UK. The operating and pre-tax profits for the year to July 2017 have recorded significant increases of 29%.
The group has controlling interests in other NI trading units in the animal feedstuffs sector, including R&H Hall, James Allen & Co, North West Silos, West Twin Silos and BHH Ltd.
Employment averaged 1,485 people in 2017, an increase of 30%.
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Shareholders’ funds were valued at £315m in July 2017, up 10% from a year earlier. Although the group has significant cash reserves, borrowing from banks rose from just under £63m at the end of July 2016 to reach nearly £69m at the end of July 2017.