Sales, profits and employment soar for Suffolk’s top 100 firms, reveals new report

29 November 2017

Jonathan Agar, CEO, Birketts (left) with Rob Thomson, director, Grant Thornton.

Suffolk businesses have achieved significant turnover growth and even greater rises in profit and employment, signalling an impressive performance in uncertain times, says a new report published today.

The Suffolk Limited study, conducted annually by financial and business advisers Grant Thornton in partnership with regional law firm Birketts, provides an in-depth financial analysis of the county’s 100 largest companies which are both owned and managed within Suffolk. The report also includes a Growth Index, looking at the fastest growing companies in the top 100 and the next tier down.

The study findings, unveiled today to more than 160 Suffolk business leaders at a breakfast event hosted by Grant Thornton and Birketts, showed combined turnover for the 100 companies increased by 8.7% to £5.12bn. Combined operating profits rose by an even greater 14.2% to £273m as businesses continue to improve operational efficiency and productivity.

The ten largest businesses by turnover, which continue to be dominated by the Transport and Motor Retail sector (four of the ten companies), contributed 40% or £2.0bn of Suffolk Limited’s total sales and 35% of operating profit at £96m.

Employment levels for the top 100 companies grew significantly, up 11.0% to 53,749 people. Services, the second largest sector at 21 companies, remained the biggest employer with over half (54%) of the combined workforce. Each of the five other sectors also increased headcount.

The average salary for Suffolk Limited increased by 2.2% to £17,827 but remains considerably lower than the UK national average of £27,600. The rise is however particularly notable following several years of wage stagnation.

The Suffolk Limited study was based on the latest company accounts available and so relates mainly to a period before the UK’s historic vote to leave the EU took place.

Commenting on the results, Rob Thomson, director at Grant Thornton Ipswich, said: “Suffolk’s top 100 companies have returned an impressive set of results against a backdrop of political and economic uncertainty. With the largest percentage growth in turnover seen for three years, Suffolk Limited has broken the £5bn barrier, a fantastic achievement considering the £4bn mark was only reached six years ago.

“As well as revenue growth, borrowing and investment has also significantly increased with fixed assets up 14.2% and a considerable rise in employment. This suggests companies are taking a less cautious approach and ensuring they have a stable foundation from which to face an uncertain post Brexit world.”

The report also analysed a breakdown of the financial data by sector. Retail and Wholesale continued as the largest sector (24 companies), whilst Transport and Motor Retail (19 companies) had the largest share of turnover at 30%. Manufacturing remained the smallest sector (10) companies but delivered the largest increase in turnover, up 24.3% to £225m, and also operating profit, up 53.3% to £24m. Property and Construction followed with a 22.9% increase in turnover to £692m.

Jonathan Agar, CEO of Birketts, added: “Congratulations are certainly due to the Suffolk Top 100. The Manufacturing and Property and Construction sectors lead the way, as they did last year, with the highest turnover growth and whilst they are two of the smallest sectors by revenue and number of companies, they have proven to be the engine of growth once again.”

The report’s Growth Index featured those companies in the top 100, and also the next 100 largest businesses, which achieved more than 21% growth in turnover. Twenty-four firms made the Index with the Services and Property and Construction sectors performing best, totalling 14 companies between them. Four Transport and Motor Retail, three Manufacturing and three Retail and Wholesale companies featured although no Food and Agriculture companies gained a place. Eight of the high growth companies came from outside the top 100.

For a second year, the Suffolk Limited survey reviewed diversity in the boardroom by looking at the mix of men and women sitting on company boards. Of the 100 companies, 56 had no female representation (three more business than last year). Meanwhile the proportion of women directors remained relatively low at under 20% of the total 463 directors listed.

The theme of this year’s Suffolk Limited event, held at Wherstead Park in Ipswich, was ‘Education in Suffolk’ with a focus on upskilling the next generation and the role of apprenticeships. Along with a keynote speech from Ian Twinley, Chairman, John Grose Group Ltd, a panel discussion took place featuring Richard Lister, Vice Chancellor, University of Suffolk; Phil Morris, Group CFO, Servest Ltd and Susanna Rendall, Group MD, Boxford (Suffolk) Holdings Ltd, with questions taken from the audience. 

For a full copy of the Suffolk Ltd 2017 report, please contact Grant Thornton at [email protected]