Ulster Business

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Next 200: Full analysis and breakdown of Northern Ireland’s leading SME list

While our economic environment has faced its toughest period in modern times, the Ulster Business Next 200 paints a positive picture for many of our leading SMES. Jonathan Cushley breaks down the key numbers


The Next 200

The Next 200

The Next 200

Northern Ireland’s leading SMEs have seen profits rising by 4% amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ulster Business Next 200 has revealed.

In the 2021 listing of the Northern Ireland Top 100, the list showed that our major companies saw sales rise by 9.4% and saw pre-tax profits decrease by a nominal 0.3%.

In a reversal of fortunes figures compiled for the Next 200, sponsored by KPMG, those companies with the potential to break into the Top 100 show year-on-year sales growth of 1.4% to £8.7bn, with profits growing a more significant 4% to £684.9m. Meanwhile, sales across the Next 200 have grown by 1.4%, rising to £8.66bn.

The Next 200 listing utilises data from Dun & Bradstreet, with figures filed at each company’s financial year end which have been posted at Companies House or in a couple of instances at the relevant registry responsible for financial filings. All company filings utilised relate to year-ends in 2020 and 2021.

Sales have grown by 1.4% to £8.66bn from £8.55bn and profitability has grown by 4% to £684.9m from £658.4m.

When published in August 2021 the Ulster Business Top 100 had a turnover cut off at £78.5m (Morgan Fuels & Lubes Ltd), the current Next 200 listing, those companies bubbling under the Top 100 listing shows that six companies would have the potential to break into the Top 100, presupposing those companies at the lower echelons of the Top 100 might see a reduction in turnover.

A review of the current Next 200 listing shows a number of companies being affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and in certain instances seeing significant decreases in turnover and subsequent challenges in profitability.

The increase in sales by 1.4% to £8.66bn is in some ways encouraging – Northern Ireland’s businesses have experienced unprecedented challenges over the past number of years with the Covid-19 pandemic following on from the uncertainties generated by Brexit.

There have been some exceptional performances. Leading the listing is John Hogg & Co Ltd with a turnover in excess of £100m – this performance though needs to be tempered by the fact that this figure relates to a 17-month period – rules in place within the measure of the Top 100 would still permit its inclusion.

Number two on the listing is MRP Land Ltd – the property development and investment division of McAleer & Rushe – while McAleer & Rushe remains on the Top 100 listing MRP Land appears not to share turnover. Lagan Homes Group Ltd, Staffline Recruitment (NI) Ltd and Dartan Hall Holdings Ltd (JMW Farms) make up the top five, and all posted extremely impressive turnover growth during their last financial years – 23.2%, 37.1% and 30.2% respectively.

A further indicator to the current challenges facing the local economy is that 97 of the 200 companies posted a reduction in turnover – a figure up from 66 in the corresponding listing for 2021.

The success of a business cannot simply be gauged by its top line turnover, and the generation of profit is key to enabling businesses to invest in their future.

The Next 200 produced pre-tax profits of £684.9m with a prior year figure of £658.4m both strong performances in uncertain business conditions and showing a year-on-year growth of 4%.

The companies operated on a profit margin (sales/pre-tax profit) of 7.9% compared to a prior year figure of 7.7%. This margin of 7.9% remains favourable when compared to the 2021 Top 100 listing showed a pre-tax profit margin of 3.5% on a turnover of £26.7bn.

Only 20 of the 200 companies declared a pre-tax loss in their latest year’s filings, this combined loss amounted to £26.9m.

Shareholder value/tangible net worth
The final measure of a company’s performance which we review is its value to its shareholders, in its simplest form this can be measured by a business’s shareholder funds (issued capital) and retained earnings – intangibles (acquired assets and assets with an identifiable value and useful lifespan that can thus be repaid.)

A consistent increase in net worth indicates good financial health; conversely, net worth may be depleted by annual operating losses or a substantial decrease in asset values relative to liabilities. The value of the Next 200 companies to their shareholders is £4.06bn. This figure relates to 51.2% of the value of the Top 100 (£7.9bn).

Tangible net worth of £4.06bn represents a return against sales of 46.9% and a shareholder’s return (profitability/worth) of 16.9%

Eleven of the companies in the Next 200 showed negative tangible net worth on their latest financial statements – this ‘negative value’ totalled £249.6m.

The companies within the Next 200 listing, as declared in their latest filed annual accounts, employed a total of 42,375 employees.

The largest employer within the listing is Woodside Holdco NI Ltd with 1,236, followed by Praxis Care with 1,222 and Barrhall Group Ltd with 1,097.

Each employee within the Next 200 listing generated £204,481 worth of turnover (sales/employee) and £16,163 worth of profit (profit/employee)

Currently 116 companies (58%) are located in the east, (a reduction of seven from the 2021 listing), with 84 companies (42%) located in the west.

A company’s registered office location has been utilised as a primary source of location. 

A date of February 28, 2022 has been used as the cut off for the filing of accounts enabling inclusion in this year’s Ulster Business Next 200, sponsored by KPMG.

The listing has been compiled using a combination of data sourced from Dun & Bradstreet’s information database and company filings retained by Companies House.

When compiling the Next 200 listing every effort has been made to provide fair and accurate comparisons. However, due to the fluid nature of the listing year-on-year comparatives are based upon current and prior year results provided by the companies within the listing in any given year.

When aggregating information from differing data sources all efforts have been made to produce fair comparisons and to not replicate turnover within group structures.

 John Hogg & Co Ltd (1) has filed accounts for a 17-month period.
 Budget Energy Ltd (7) has filed accounts for an 18-month period.
 Imed (NI) Ltd (29) has filed accounts in euro, conversion to sterling was implemented using the exchange rate at the appropriate year end date.
 Evron Foods Ltd (36) has filed accounts for a 16-month period.
 Ballinaskeagh Grains Ltd (73) has filed accounts for a 15-month period.
 Kilrea Service Station Ltd (105) has filed accounts for an 18-month period.
 Glenstal Foods UK Ltd (136) has filed accounts in euro, conversion to sterling was implemented using the exchange rate at the appropriate year end date.
 United Performance Metals Ltd (141) has filed accounts in US dollars, conversion to sterling was implemented using the exchange rate at the appropriate year end date.
 D&W Carlisle Ltd (150) has filed accounts for a six-month period.