Ulster Business

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Ulster Business Top 100 2022: Full analysis and breakdown as profits soar by 46%

The Ulster Business Top 100 Northern Ireland Companies 2022, with A&L Goodbody, highlights extremely strong performances across the sectors, with sales up and pre-tax profits soaring, based on last year’s figures. It’s been brought together using data from Dun and Bradstreet and Companies House. Our analyst Jonathan Cushley breaks down the key numbers and trends


Jonathan Cushley

Jonathan Cushley

Jonathan Cushley

The Ulster Business Top 100 Northern Ireland Companies 2022, with A&L Goodbody, shows that exceptional profit results have been posted by our top businesses.

The performance of the Top 100 Northern Ireland companies shows growth across sales, and pre-tax profit and shareholder value – with year-on-year pre-tax profit for the companies showing 46% growth.

The Ulster Business Top 100 listing incorporates the results of Northern Ireland-based companies, either Northern Ireland-registered or when a significant portion of their business is driven and transacted through Northern Ireland.

In the vast majority of cases the figures utilised in compiling the listing correspond to either early 2022, 2021 or late 2020 financial year ends

Since the inception of the Top 100 listing in 1989, turnover has been used as the key identifier of performance, however, we also review pre-tax profit and shareholder value (tangible net worth) providing a stronger, more succinct rounded view on individual company and Top 100 performance.

The Top 100 companies continue to perform well in extremely trying economic circumstances. The impact and in a few cases the benefit of the Covid pandemic can be seen within the listing with a large proportion of companies struggling to maintain turnover levels.

As a result, sales have grown by a relatively modest 2.6% to £27.7bn from £26.1bn (year-on-year comparison). This 2.6% growth is down from the 10.4% growth recorded in the 2021 Top 100 listing.

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It is however, the generation of pre-tax profits where the companies have excelled this year with results posted of £1.367bn against a prior year figure of £936.8m. This represents pre-tax profit growth of 45.9% and a pre-tax profit margin of 5.1%, up from 3.7%.

Tangible net worth of the Top 100 remains high sitting at an all-time peak of £8.6bn.

Sales generated by the companies listed in the 2022 Top 100 increased modestly by 2.6% to £26.7bn from £26.1bn.

Companies within the 2022 Top 100 have seen some exceptional sales performance, W&R Barnett Ltd, the international commodity trading, storage and agri-business based in Belfast, continued its strong sales performance and is closing the gap on the perennial number one placed company Moy Park.

John Henderson (Holdings) Ltd ranked third in the listing are closing in on breaking the £1bn barrier with continued year-on-year sales growth.

Almac Group saw turnover rise by 8.6%, Power NI Energy Ltd by 8.4% and SHS Group Ltd by 15%.

Randox Holdings Ltd, the largest diagnostics company within the UK and Ireland, has risen up the listing significantly to number 11 and posted 283% sales growth. Sales rose from £218.4m for the 18 months to 30/06/2020 to £619.2m (30/06/2021).

McAleer & Rushe Contracts (UK) Ltd, the Cookstown-based construction company saw turnover grow to £400.5m, a 38.1% year-on-year growth, and a mention of Top 100 new entrant – Fourds Ltd (Bloc Blinds), the Magherafelt-based blind and personal protection equipment manufacturer which entered the listing at 77 with turnover of £101.9m, increased from a prior year of £13.7m.

While the sales growth is positive it should be noted that some 38 of the Top 100 posted reduced year-on-year turnover figures, an indication of the difficult global market conditions our largest businesses are continuing to experience.

As headlined the pre-tax profit of the Ulster Business Top 100 increased by an impressive 45.9%, with strong performances from a number of companies. Pre-tax profit now sits at £1.367bn up from £936.8m.

This performance represents an overall increase in profit margin (sales/pre tax profit) across the listing of 5.1% compared to prior year of 3.7%. In simple terms, for every £100 in sales the companies will generate nearly £5.10 in profit before tax.

Of the 100 companies only eight declared losses for their last financial year. The biggest impact on the Top 100 performance came from Short Brothers plc which posted losses of £299.5m (after currency adjustment), and Thompson Aero Seating Ltd, which posted losses of £57m. In total the eight companies lost a combined £416.3m.

Randox Holdings Ltd is now the most profitable business in NI, posting profits of £225.5m against sales of £619.2m, with a margin of 36.4%.

A number of companies posted strong year-on-year pre-tax profit growth – Huhtamaki Foodservice Delta Ltd (521.8%) Kainos (220.6%), Schrader Electronics (265.5%) to name a few.

Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company, turned a £65.4m loss posted in 2020 into a £49m profit.

Tangible net worth (shareholder value)
The final measure of a company’s success that we review its value to its shareholders. In its simplest form this is calculated as the shareholders funds (issued capital) and retained earnings – intangible assets.

The value of this year’s Top 100 Northern Ireland Companies to their shareholders sits at £8.6bn.

Eight of the companies showed a negative tangible net worth, a condition in which a company’s liabilities exceed its assets.

The shareholder return for the 100 companies equates to profit/tangible net worth as a percentage –15.9%. As a benchmark a shareholders return of 15-20% is considered good, however this measure can be industry specific.

Sales-to-equity ratio defined as turnover/tangible net worth, indicates how many pounds are generated with each pound of investment – for the latest filed results this equates to 3.11.

A total of 101,302 people were employed by Northern Ireland’s largest companies, a figure reduced from the prior year’s number of 104,210.

Each employee within the listing accounted for £264,018 of sales (sales/employee) and £13,496 profit (pre-tax profit/employee).

The Top 10 companies employ over 31% of the total Top 100 workforce.

Since the inception of the Top 100, some 34 years ago, we have periodically reviewed the geographic locations of the included companies.

Currently 62 companies are located in the east of the province, with 38% companies located in the rest of the region.

When looking at geography, the address of a company’s registered office is used as a primary source of location.


Based on the Ulster Business Top 100 listing, the average of NI’s largest companies would have a turnover of £267.5m, generate pre-tax profits of £13.7m, have a tangible value of £85.8m and employ 1,013 people.