Grant Thornton’s Toby Wilson. Picture: Rob Ward/Grant Thornton
Rob Ward/Grant Thornton
Norfolk’s leading businesses saw turnover, employment and investment grow in the past year – though the continued downturn in the energy sector took some of the wind out of the county’s economic sails.
The findings are published in the annual Norfolk Limited study, which looks at the performance of the 100 largest companies owned and managed within the county. The results will be unveiled this morning at a breakfast event hosted by financial and business advisers Grant Thornton, which compiled the report.
They show that combined turnover for Norfolk Limited’s constituent members grew by 2.8% to £5.5bn. Though only a marginal increase, it is slightly ahead of overall GDP growth and once the Oil, Gas & Energy sector is removed, the increase in turnover is 6.8%.
However, combined operating profits across all sectors fell by 11% to £212m, and pre-tax profits were down 26.4% to £142m. Excluding companies in the oil, gas and energy sector, the year-on-year comparison of the figures was healthier, with operating profits up 25.7% while pre-tax profit rose by 18.2%.
Capital investment rose by 5.4% and employment increased by 3.5% to 43,813 people, continuing an upward trend.
By sector, Food & Agriculture saw the biggest rise in employment (9.5%), while Services remained the largest employer with staff numbers rising by 8.5% to 21,868 – over half of Norfolk Limited’s workforce. Two sectors saw employment fall: Oil, Gas & Energy (15.1%) and Retail & Leisure (2%).
The average salary for those employed by Norfolk Limited companies increased by 4.3% to £24,109 following several years of wage stagnation. This compares to an average salary for Norfolk of £23,689 and a UK average of £27,600.
The Norfolk Limited study was based on the latest company accounts available and so relates mainly to a period when uncertainty prevailed in the lead up to and wake of the EU referendum and US presidential election.
Toby Wilson of Grant Thornton’s Norwich office said: “This year’s findings indicate much to be positive about. Growth and investment is up and profitability across all sectors excluding Oil, Gas & Energy has risen substantially.
“This optimism is emphasised by a number of businesses identified in the report who have enjoyed particular success in recent times and shown themselves to be dynamic in the face of continued uncertainties across the wider economy.”
Outstanding businesses highlighted at the event will include Epos Now, Monica Vinader, Nature’s Menu, Rainbird Technologies, Midwich Group, Start-rite, EV Offshore, Abel Homes, Black Swan, Angling Direct, Carter Accommodation and Adrian Flux.
Sector by sector
The Norfolk Limited study also analysed a breakdown of the financial data by sector.
Six of the seven sectors saw growth in turnover, led by Services (10.8%), Motor Retail & Motor Services (7.9%) and Manufacturing & Construction (5.8%). The only sector to see a fall in turnover was Oil, Gas & Energy, down 16.4%.
Three sectors reported an increase in operating profits with Services delivering the biggest rise (119%), followed by Manufacturing & Construction (36.7%) and Haulage & Distribution (8.8%). Oil, Gas & Energy saw the biggest fall at 72%.
Mr Wilson said: “Pressures from rising wages, the Apprenticeship Levy, higher raw material prices and the threat of losing EU workers abroad have created some difficult conditions for business, making the performance of Norfolk Limited all the more impressive.
“With Norfolk’s vibrant economy consistently developing dynamic, successful companies, alongside a culture of reinvesting to maximise growth, the county looks in good shape for the future.”
The results are due to be discussed at a breakfast event at Carrow Road this morning, with a panel of guests including Dewing Grain chief executive Andrew Dewing, Rainbird chairman James Duez, Epos Now founder Jacyn Heavens, and Start-rite chief executive Ian Watson.