Welcome to the 2022 Belfast Telegraph Top 100 Companies in association with Grant Thornton. We’re honoured that the leading business advisory firm is supporting our publication for the second year in a row.
It has only been six months since we published our 2021 Top 100, which had been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, we were keen to restore the Top 100 to its usual springtime slot, which is why we’re back so soon after our last outing. Thankfully we’ve been able to present a refreshed list with many great talking points.
Little did we know back in November what world events would soon be throwing at us. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought tragedy and bloodshed on an unimaginable scale.
It has also brought deeply unwelcome economic effects, including even greater increases in energy costs, and contributed to rising food prices. The Bank of England has reacted to spiralling inflation by putting up interest rates four times since the last Top 100, to a level of 1%.
Here in Northern Ireland, we’re experiencing the deja vu of another political crisis following the Assembly election, and UK threats of disruption to the NI Protocol.
NI Chamber president Paul Murnaghan articulated our deepest fears when he said that the political stalemate was bringing harm to our reputation on a daily basis.
The protocol has been difficult for many firms to adjust to, but for others it has brought opportunities.
Even though the conditions around us are difficult, business in Northern Ireland will always espouse great values and a can-do attitude
Yet companies have indicated in surveys by bodies like Belfast Chamber and Manufacturing NI that they’d rather know what they had to deal with than face the uncertainty of more rowing between the UK and EU and the possibility of changes to the agreement.
Economist John Simpson has compiled the Top 100 on the basis of the pre-tax profits of businesses, taken from their Companies House records. For most, the most-recently filed accounts were for 2020, but other filings were as recent as up to June 2021.
To qualify, a company has to be registered in Northern Ireland but it does not have to be locally owned.
Some companies’ results demonstrate that they’ve already put the impact of the Covid crisis behind them. Many, including in the pharma or medical devices sector, have indicated it’s brought growing demand for their products.
To present the profiles of the companies, I’ve gone to each one to ask if they have any updates on how business is, including the challenges they’re encountering. Some have cited staff shortages as a result of Brexit. Rising costs is an even more pressing bugbear.
In some cases, the figure given for employees in the latest accounts, and included in the table below, differs from information later shared by the companies and used in their profiles.
And in the absence of updated information from the Equality Commission since our last Top 100, we have not included the usual table showing Northern Ireland’s biggest employers.
Business is all about making do, controlling everything that’s within your power and striking a way forward regardless of the external factors you’re facing.
The business success on display in the Top 100 shows the determination of our best companies to always push ahead. Even though the conditions around us are difficult, business in Northern Ireland will always espouse great values and a can-do attitude.
As ever, family-run companies abound in the Top 100. One of our most historic family company has now arrived in the top 10, and the family firm behind our most recognisable retail brand has divulged that it’s on course for £1bn turnover for its 2021 financial year.
Sadly, we continue to lack female chief executives and managing directors in the Top 100 with only five women in charge in the entire list. Interestingly, four of the five are inside the top 20.
Let’s hope that in years to come, we’ll see women leaders at companies throughout the list.
Thank you to John Simpson for compiling the list and to Grant Thornton for its support. I’m grateful to the many business leaders who have also contributed to the magazine.
It’s impossible to predict how things will be in another year’s time, at a local, national or global level. But for now, I hope you enjoy the magazine and take encouragement from reading about our amazing Top 100.