Northern Ireland companies urged 'speak up' on Brexit at Top 100 launch
Economist John Simpson has urged the leaders of Northern Ireland's top companies to start speaking out about Brexit.
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And Mr Simpson said he would "no longer keep quiet" about Brexit as he addressed the launch of the Belfast Telegraph Top 100 Companies in association with law firm Arthur Cox.
The publication was presented to the business world at a high-profile breakfast event at Waterfront Hall in Belfast.
Business leaders including Danske Bank chief Kevin Kingston, representing the company at number one with pre-tax profits of £147.5m, attended the event.
Also present were Pete Boyle, the head of jewellery chain Argento - whose parent company Denvir Holdings is placed in the list, along with leaders from Moy Park, Euro Auctions, Ulster Carpets and many more.
Senior lawyers from Arthur Cox attended, including Alastair Todd, partner and head of property, corporate and commercial partner Paul McBride and corporate and commercial group partner Lynsey Mallon.
Kieran McGarrigle, finance partner at Arthur Cox, said: "Congratulations once again to all local businesses included in the 2018 Belfast Telegraph Top 100 Companies, many of which gathered at the Waterfront for a very successful launch event.
"The 2018 Belfast Telegraph Top 100 Companies provides an incredible snapshot of the success of Northern Ireland businesses.
"The sheer breadth of firms included in the guide, from indigenous family businesses to large multi-national corporations, illustrates a pedigree that suggests local companies are in a strong position as they seek to grow their presence in an increasingly global marketplace."
John Simpson, who has compiled the list for over 20 years, said: "This year, the continued success of our private sector firms meant that we have raised the threshold for inclusion to £4m.
"So if you are one of the 29 firms who dropped off the list after appearing last year, be aware that continuing to stay in profit, even if you are below the level of £4m, is still an achievement."
Some had published more recent accounts since the cut-off point before publication of the chart. They included family firm W&R Barnett, the holding company of a group encompassing commodity trading, agribusiness and industry. Its turnover for the year ending July 31, 2017, grew from £966m to £1.1bn, while its pre-tax profits expanded from £36.2m to £36.8m.
However, its improved performance would not have resulted in a move up the table as it would remain in 12th place, behind Norbrook Holdings with pre-tax profits of £49.2m.
And Mr Simpson said he now felt compelled to speak out about Brexit despite previously feeling it was best to stay quiet after voting against leaving the EU.
"When the result came out I felt I had to keep quite because the majority had spoken and there would be a plan and, by being against Brexit, I was in a minority and I was wrong," he said.
"But now it appears that there is no one with a plan, so it is now time for me to speak about what Brexit might mean - and I urge you companies to do the same."
The Top 100 is also available in an interactive format at www.belfast telegraph.co.uk