Belfast Telegraph

Top businesses here are 'thriving'

By Robin Morton

Northern Ireland's leading businesses are thriving, according to the annual Belfast Telegraph Top 100 Companies supplement, which is published today.

The magazine, published in association with Bank of Scotland (Ireland), is based on research by local economist John Simpson.

In top place, as last year, was Tesco, which now operates 36 supermarkets and seven express stores in Northern Ireland, employing almost 10,000.

Poultry processor Moy Park, with a workforce of 8,700, was in second place while resource, the soft services provider which employs 6,400, came third.

Mr Simpson said improvements in the balance sheets of the larger firms were the best for over a decade.

He said: "Turnover in the 81 larger companies where local figures are available rose by 10.5%.

"Profits have more than kept pace with turnover, rising by 15% on average in 2007."

Employment in firms listed in the Top 100 increased from 124,834 in 2006 to 139,181 last year.

Mr Simpson said: "The local economy has shown it has the potential to sustain and increase activity in the face of a period of difficult global competition.

"Although there is little evidence of a Celtic Tiger type leap, with only a modest expansion from large inward investments, most existing large businesses have performed better in 2007 than in the previous year.

"The prospects for 2008 are that the present buoyant level of business will be maintained for most firms. However, there is a growing danger that some businesses will face more difficult trading conditions."

Hugh Donnelly, head of Bank of Scotland (Ireland) in Northern Ireland, said that despite the challenging global business climate, there were plenty of reasons for Northern Ireland businesses to be positive.

He said: "The companies in the Top 100 have met and overcome the unique challenges posed by the challenges of the rapidly changing business environment in the last year."