Northern Ireland Top 100 Companies launch held at Belfast’s Merchant Hotel

The 2021 Belfast Telegraph Top 100 Companies in partnership with Grant Thornton has been launched at an event attended by businesses on the prestigious list.

breakfast event hosted by former BBC journalist Seamus McKee was held at Belfast’s Merchant Hotel to celebrate the achievements of companies on the list.

It’s the first year in which business advisory firm Grant Thornton has sponsored the publication.

Richard Gillan, the managing partner of Grant Thornton in Northern Ireland, said: “The Top 100 provides an insightful snapshot of the strength of our economy, along with the resilience, innovation and leadership excellence that has allowed businesses to thrive despite an often unpredictable and uncertain backdrop.”

Representatives attended the launch event from companies on the list including NIE Networks, Encirc, Gardrum Holdings, MRP Land and Aidan Strain Electrical Engineering (ASEE), along with many others.

NIE Networks, which owns Northern Ireland’s electricity transmission and distribution network, was the number one company with pre-tax profits of £92.7m.

This year’s Top 100 reflects the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Northern Ireland’s most important companies.

Welcoming guests to the event, Belfast Telegraph business editor, Margaret Canning, said: “As we approach the end of 2021, it’s still an uncertain time for the economy.

“But that makes it all the more important that we celebrate the achievements of the Top 100 in making it through such a difficult time, and with such an impressive level of profits.”

A panel discussion was held as part of the event, featuring Angela McGowan, director of business group the CBI in Northern Ireland, Andrew Webb, chief economist at Grant Thornton NI, Margaret Canning and economist John Simpson, who compiles the Top 100.

Ms McGowan said that rising energy costs, resulting from the surging price of gas on wholesale markets, were one of the biggest challenges facing companies.

She cited the example of one company which had bills of £600,000 – which would have been £6m had the company not hedged its energy costs in advance.

But Mr Webb said he believed the rise in energy costs was a transitory problem.

Mr Simpson said the impact of the pandemic on the Top 100 had not been as stark as anticipated on profit levels of businesses on the list.

“The highest profits recorded this year were £92.7m. Last year, Danske Bank recorded the highest profits at £90m.

“Going down the list of company profits to include just 100 businesses, the lowest qualifying profits this year were £4.4m – last year the comparable figure was £4.9m.”

And he said that while the number 50 company in 2020 had pre-tax profits of £9m, this year’s level for the halfway point company was £9.7m.

And there were 20 new companies on the list, to replace 20 from last year’s ranking who in their latest results has reported pre-tax profit below the 2021 threshold of £4.4m. New companies on this year’s list included Dartan Hall Holdings – the parent company of pig processing business JMW Farms.

In Focus: Top 100 Companies 2021

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