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Confident Suffolk firms step up investment for growth

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The largest 100 Suffolk businesses have significantly increased investment and employment against a background of rising profits, turnover and employment according to the latest Suffolk Ltd study from Grant Thornton and law firm Birketts. Fixed assets across the top 100 rose by 14.2% and total debt by 17.5% to £881 million as the county’s largest firms shrugged off concerns over EU referendum and last year’s US presidential election to expand operations.

The study, based on the last-published annual reports showed combined turnover rose by 8.7% to £5.12 billion and combined operating profits rose by 14.2% to £273 million whilst the workforce rose by 11% to 53,749. Retail & wholesale remained the largest sector followed by transport & motor retail.

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….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 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 - after several years of stagnation - but remains considerably lower than the UK national average of £27,600.

Rob Thomson, director at Grant Thornton Ipswich, added: “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.

The report also analysed a breakdown of the financial data by sector. Retail & wholesale continued as the largest sector (24 companies), whilst transport & 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 & 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 & 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.”

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.

Growth index

A growth index in the report featured those companies in the top 100, and also the next 100 largest businesses, which achieved more than 21 per cent growth in turnover. Twenty-four firms made the index with the services and property & construction sectors performing best, totalling 14 companies between them. Four transport & motor retail, three manufacturing and three retail & wholesale companies featured although no food & agriculture companies gained a place. Eight of the high growth companies came from outside the top 100.

Photo (l-r) : Jonathan Agar, CEO, Birketts with guest speaker Ian Twinley, chairman, John Grose Group;  panellists Susanna Rendall, Group MD, Boxford (Suffolk) Holdings; Phil Morris, Group CFO, Servest; Richard Lister, Vice Chancellor, University of Suffolk; and Rob Thomson, director, Grant Thornton.

Last Updated ( Friday, 01 December 2017 07:35 )