Margaret Canning considers the wide range of businesses on the list, including the home grown heroes hitting £1bn in sales
As you’ve seen, the criteria for entering the Top 100 gives rise to a rich tapestry of businesses, some of which are owned by parent companies as far away as Canada, USA, Spain and Finland.
Three businesses on the list, Gardrum Holdings, McCloskey International and Linamar Light Metals, are now Canadian-owned, with the latter changing its name from Montupet after a sale by the French-owned business.
From NIE Networks to Energia and GNI, chunks of our energy sector are owned by larger entities in the Republic. ESB, for example, owns NIE Networks and Coolkeeragh power station in the north-west.
And the former Quinn Glass company Encirc is owned by Vidrala, which is based in Spain.
There’s no question that international ownership can be a huge contributor in boosting a company’s prospects and broadening its horizons — consider the growth of the former Powerscreen business in Co Tyrone, for example, since it was taken over by Terex.
On the other hand, around one-third of the Top 100 remains in local ownership in multi-generational firms and those companies are thriving.
One of our family-owned home grown companies, W&R Barnett, has surpassed the £1bn sales mark, a measure of success shared only by the US-owned Moy Park in the Top 100.
And wholesale and retail group John Henderson Holdings, which owns household names like Spar, Eurospar and Vivo, is 96% of the way there with its turnover of £956.6m for 2020.
Coincidentally, the roots of both John Henderson Holdings and W&R Barnett go back to 1896, so they’re marking an impressive century and a quarter in business this year.
Along with John Henderson Holdings, LCC Group, Lynns Country Foods and SHS Group, W&R Barnett is one of five home grown Northern Ireland companies in the top 20.
Their range of activity is extremely diverse, from gourmet sausages at Lynn’s Country Foods to fuel and film-making at LCC Group. But they have one major attribute in common.
The Agnews of Henderson Group, the Loughrans of LCC Group, the Lynns of Lynn’s Country Foods, and the Salters and Sloans of SHS Group (co-founder Joe Sloan, his relatives and those of late co-founder Geoff Salters) all keep a low profile.
At number 25 is another family-owned group, Newry-based MJM Marine. Its main business of fitting out cruise ships took a dramatic hit during lockdowns last year.
Founded by Brian McConville in 1983, his children Conleth McConville and Naoimh McConville-McAteer now play a major part in the business.
The Top 100 reminds us that the SMEs of today will make up the Top 100 of the future. For example, Mzuri Group, which owns Decora Blinds Systems, started out in 1979 as a husband and wife operation.
Now Michael and Lynda Dicksons’ son Stuart is leading the business in a new era of acquisition, investment and pre-tax profit of £6.6m.
Yet for all the scope of ambition on show in the Top 100 Companies, not many have been willing to take the plunge of an IPO — FD Technologies plc and Kainos plc are the only entities to be listed in their own right.
Andor, Severfield and Cranswick Country Foods, are part of bigger plcs, though Andor was formerly listed on the AIM in its own right before it was bought over by Oxford Instruments plc.
The owners of Euro Auctions decided against an IPO when it came to plotting their next move, which has taken their business out of the Keys family altogether.
Sometimes, it’s just a matter of whatever works in the rich tapestry of business.