W&R Barnett revealed as NI's top family-owned company in Top 100

William Barnett (centre) of W & R Barnett, who took the number one spot for the second year in a row in Northern Ireland's NI Top 100 Family and Owner Managed Businesses. Also pictured are Michael McQuillan, director Ulster University Business School (left) and Darren McDowell, partner Harbinson Mulholland (right)
Gareth McKeown

FOR the second successive year grain and animal feed producer W&R Barnett has been named the north's top family-owned and owner-managed business.

A total of 34 newcomers make up the annual top 100 list compiled Ulster University Business School on behalf of Harbinson Mulholland accountants, with this year's pre-tax profit threshold - the measure for the figures, rising to £1.5m.

With pre-tax profits up by 32 per cent to over £36 million fourth-generation family businessW&R Barnett topped the pile, with veterinary pharmaceutical company Norbrook Holdings taking second, with its £35.5 million pre-tax profits up £14 million on the previous year.

Rounding off the top three is pharmaceutical firm Almac Group, who recorded a rise of 120 per cent in pre-tax profits to £27.9 million, while distributors SHS Group and John Henderson take the remaining places in the top five, with pre-tax profits of over £20m each.

Chief executive and managing director at W&R Barnett William Barnett said the success was boosted by the November 2015 acquisition of a 60 per cent majority shareholding in UK packaging giant Logson Group.

"Adding that business to the existing business has probably increased the size of our business by 25 per cent," he told the Irish News.

"Over the past few years we have invested significantly in the businesses that we own and helped them grow, but the growth of our business in general has been acquisition led and we have acquired relatively significant businesses in the south of Ireland, England and indeed in Northern Ireland."

"We will continue to make small acquisitions in our existing businesses, but probably for the near future it will be a period of consolidation," he added.

Other notable entries in the top 100 include eighth placed construction company John Graham, with pre-tax profits up by nearly 148 per cent, from £6.9 million to £17.1million, while hotelier Beannchor broke into the top 20 with a 260 per cent increase, from £2.5 million to £9 million.

Almac had by far the highest pay bill - over £151 million, with other significant wage bill payers recorded as Newtownabbey transport company Ballyvesey Holdings at £82 million, John Graham Construction at £73 million, Norbrook at £69 million and First Derivatives at £65 million.

In all, 61 companies showed a rise in profits, with manufacturing accounting for the highest number of entries in the top 100 at 33, followed by construction with 18 and distribution with 14.

The largest proportion of businesses in the top 100 were in Co Antrim with 46, 26 of which are in Belfast. This was followed by Co Tyrone (18) and Co Down (15). Fermanagh had the smallest number with three businesses in the top 100.

Of the complete list 71 companies were listed as family-owned with 29 designated as owner-managed

Darren McDowell, partner in Harbinson Mulholland said the figures showed that family-run and owner-managed firms are the "backbone" of our economy.

“The contribution of these home grown businesses to the local economy is often overlooked. This top 100 list is an important piece of research in highlighting the impact of this sector of the economy."


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