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This article was first published in the Western Morning News Annual Business Guide.
The 150 largest companies in Devon and Cornwall are vital to the success of our region’s economy, generating combined revenue of just under £15 billion and employing nearly 79,000 people.
As in previous years, the list published in the Western Morning News Annual Business Guide is based on the latest publicly available accounts when data was extracted from Experian Market IQ (in January 2023) and companies are ranked by turnover. Their varying accounting periods and associated filing deadlines mean that this year’s list broadly reflects how the region’s biggest businesses fared during 2021 and early 2022.
There are 20 new entrants, including the Seafood Restaurant (Padstow), XYZ Machine Tools and Riviera Produce.
The most notable absentees are last year’s ninth-placed company, Midas Group, after the construction firm went into administration in February 2022, and fifth-placed Helston Garages, whose registered office is now in the North East after the group was acquired by Vertu Motors.
Retaining the top spot for a second year was Norton Group Holdings, owner of homeware superstores The Range, with a turnover of £1.41 billion. At the other end of the list, the Barden Corporation – the Plymouth-based world leader in the design and manufacture of super precision ball bearings – completes the Top 150, with sales of £27.3 million.
The combined turnover of Devon and Cornwall’s Top 150 businesses has increased by 9% to £14.93 billion, having dipped last year. Perhaps the most significant statistic is that 55% of Top 150 companies (compared to just 30% last year) increased their turnover by 10% or more as the economy rebounded from the depths of the pandemic.
The key question will be how successfully businesses have been able to protect their profit margins in the context of rising inflation.
Overall employment decreased by 2% but remains at a healthy 78,848, with the Top 20 companies accounting for 55% of this total. Once again, the largest employers are Norton Group Holdings Ltd, with 13,492 employees, and Devonport Royal Dockyard Ltd, with 6,407.
Devon-based businesses make up 113 of the Top 150, accounting for 84% of aggregate turnover, up from 75% last year.
The three biggest sectors remain wholesale & retail, accounting for 37% of the Top 150, manufacturing (19%) and property & construction (10%).
Excluding new entrants, property & construction businesses on the list increased their turnover by an average of 30%, outperforming their counterparts in wholesale & retail (17%) and manufacturing (13%).
By the same token, only one property & construction business out of the 13 on the list (excluding new entrants) posted a decrease in turnover, compared to four out of 27 manufacturers and five out of 50 wholesalers or retailers. This represents a marked improvement on last year, when a majority of businesses across these key sectors posted reductions in turnover, reflecting the impact of Covid.
A total of 28 companies have climbed 10 or more places in this year’s list. Leading this group is Regional & City Airports, which has risen 61 places to 40th after its turnover doubled year-on-year, reflecting a recovery in air travel following the most extreme Covid travel restrictions, though disruption persisted in 2021-22.
There were also strong performances from The Travel Chapter and Baker Estates, climbing 54 and 43 places respectively.
Overall, the story of this year’s Top 150 is one of solid growth in challenging economic times, though the key question will be how successfully businesses have been able to protect their profit margins in the context of rising inflation.
The breakdown by turnover bands reflects this overall growth. Companies in the £20-£30 million turnover bracket now account for just 9% of the list – down from a quarter last year. In the upper echelons, one in five businesses now has a turnover of over £100 million.
Click here to read the Annual Business Guide 2023