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Apple is number one in Top 1,000 Companies - Google and Facebook thrive as Irish financial sector gets Brexit boost

For the second year in succession, Apple is far and away Ireland’s largest company with sales of €119bn according to the 2019 edition of The Irish Times Top 1,000 Companies.

Apple continues to dominate the listings - due to the fact that it puts all its sales outside of the US through Ireland.

Although it has been a difficult few years for some of the leading tech companies, with controversy generated by issues such as tax avoidance, privacy and fake news, Google and Facebook have continued to thrive.

Google’s Irish operations grew by over 20% last year – up from €26bn to €32bn – and in the process pushed Ireland’s leading indigenous company, CRH, a previous holder of the top spot into third place on €27bn.

After making the Top 10 for the first-time last year, Facebook has continued its ascent, rising from 9th to 6th place with turnover of €18.7bn. Revenue has fallen back slightly at Microsoft though and as a result it has slipped from 5th to 7th.

Apart from CRH the only other indigenous Irish company in the Top Ten is DCC in eighth, with the rest of the Top 10 being made up of global companies which moved their international headquarters to Ireland in recent years.

Overall, the Top 1,000 companies reported gross sales of €686bn, up 10% on last year’s survey. To put this in context, this is over twice Ireland’s GDP for 2018 of €319bn.

Fiona Reddan, Editor of The Irish Times Top 1000, pointed out that with profits of the largest companies also on the rise, it has become increasingly difficult to break into the Top 10 most profitable companies.

This year the minimum requirement to make it into the Top 10 was €1.2bn, up from €991m last year. Medtronic, Ireland’s fourth largest company, is the most profitable company in the country for the fourth year in a row with profits of some €5bn last year. Of course, the vast majority of these profits were generated elsewhere as the company has its global headquarters in Ireland.”

Once again, the Central Bank took the number two spot with profits of €2.6bn, although the regulator did say it expects profits to decrease over time. The only other Irish entrants on the list were CRH, 6th on €1.8bn and AIB, 10th on €1.25bn

Two pharma companies – Allergan and Mallinckrodt, head the list of companies in the red. Allergan tops the list with losses of €6bn and illustrates the stark difference in fortunes that can hit companies in this sector. Smurfit Kappa, the only indigenous company to feature, makes the list with a loss of some €404m on the back of turmoil in Venezuela. While financial companies would have dominated the list in the past, just two companies featured last year, underlining the recovery in the sector” Reddan said.

Brexit Boost – but accommodation blues

Financial services companies have been ramping up their Irish operations ahead of Brexit and this has provided a timely boost to the sector here, particularly in Dublin. On the banking side, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Barclays Bank and JP Morgan have either announced or are implementing plans to scale up their business here. On the life assurance side, the flow of business has been lower key but still significant.

Reddan said that while the creation of new job opportunities is a positive, the lack of accommodation is a serious and ongoing issue.

We interviewed a group of newly arrived workers for this year’s Top 1,000 magazine and all of them pointed to huge issues securing suitable accommodation at affordable prices. One said he ended up paying €400 more than in London. Another described the competition to get a place as pure madness. One South African lady sent out 20 queries but didn’t receive one reply. Clearly this is a huge issue – and not just for new arrivals - but for all Dubliners. Sadly it’s an issue where progress to date has been shockingly slow” Reddan concluded.

Construction on the up

According to this year’s Top 1,000 some of the most rapidly expanding indigenous companies are involved in the construction sector. Sandyford based Mercury Engineering (104) for example posted turnover of €770m last year, up by over 50% over the past five years. Insulation manufacturer Kingspan (26) grew its revenues by 19% to €4.4bn, while turnover at Jacobs Engineering (174) has grown to €450m. Other companies growing strongly include new home builders Cairn (210) and Glenveagh (524).

However, despite the recovery some companies struggled last year including Sammon Contracting. The Kildare based company which specialised in building schools, ran into trouble following the collapse of UK contractor Carillion and eventually went into liquidation. Another Kildare company, MDY Construction, which was involved in building social and affordable housing units went into examinership in September last year.

The Irish Times Top 1,000 companies 2018  information is available on a dedicated website, www.top1000.ie 

This year the Top 1,000 has been published to coincide with the Irish Times Business Awards in association with KPMG, which were held in the Mansion House last night (May 8th). Patrick and John Collison, founders of online payments company Stripe received The Irish Times Business Person of the Year Award, Dalata was named the Company of the Year while Primark / Penney’s Breege O’Donoghue received The Irish Times Top 1,000 Distinguished Leader in Business Award.