North's top SMEs recorded 5.6 per cent rise in sales in year prior to pandemic

Whitemountain Quarries topped the 2020 Next 200 list with revenues rising by 19.5 per cent.
Ryan McAleer

THE north’s top performing SMEs (small and medium enterprises) reported a 5.6 per cent rise in sales in the year leading up to the pandemic, new analysis shows.

The Next 200 list, compiled by Ulster Business, found revenues rose from £8.36 billion to £8.84bn, with combined profits rising 2.4 per cent to £566.2 million.

The report analyses the performance of companies with fewer than 250 employees over a 12 month period, ending in early 2020, before the introduction of lockdown restrictions in late March 2020.

The list was topped by Whitemountain Quarries, which reported a 19.5 per cent rise in revenues to £91.5m.

But while it acknowledges the success of the north’s top SMEs, the list shows some signs of strain on the economy even ahead of the pandemic.

A total of 66 companies showed a decrease of turnover from prior year, while overall, the profit margin for businesses on the list shrank from 6.6 per cent to 6.4 per cent.

Analyst Jonathan Cushley, who worked on compiling the list, said the 6.4 per cent figure remains favourable when compared with Northern Ireland’s most profitable big firms, which averaged a pre-tax profit margin of 3.7 per cent in 2020.

“The overall increase of 5.6 per cent remains encouraging in what has been a challenging time for Northern Ireland entrepreneurs with the uncertainty surrounding Brexit,” he said.

John Mulgrew, editor of Ulster Business, said: “It is likely that future editions will start to show the impact which Covid-19 has had on company top lines.

“Some sectors will obviously have been hit harder than others, but it’s also likely some companies will have been able to weather the storm, and in fact, have seen sales rising as consumer and market demands shift.”

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