Turnover of Suffolk’s top 100 privately owned firms up 15.8% to £6.7bn

The 22nd annual Suffolk Limited report, by Grant Thornton UK LLP, reveals how the county’s 100 leading privately-owned companies have thrived during a period of rising interest rates and broader inflationary pressures.

The Suffolk Limited report – produced in conjunction with UK top 50 full-service law firm Birketts LLP – is part of an annual series of business analysis of UK counties undertaken by Grant Thornton. It celebrates the showcased firms and provides well deserved recognition for their contribution to the region and the wider UK economy. The analysis is compiled using the most recently publicly available accounts (as of 16 October 2023).

The region’s top performer, logistics specialist Turners (Soham) Holdings Limited, retains its position at the head of the list for the sixth consecutive year, continuing to demonstrate strong year on year revenue growth of 15.22%.

The report identifies the top five largest private-owned companies in the Suffolk area as:

  • Turners (Soham) Holdings Limited
  • Maritime Transport Limited
  • East of England Co-operative Society Limited
  • A.J.N. Steelstock Ltd.
  • John Grose Group Limited

The consumer products sector is strongly represented across the region’s top 100 companies, with 39 businesses in the sector generating £3.2bn in sales. Consumer products is followed by real estate and construction (£1.2bn), services (£1.1bn) and industrial products (£828m) – reflecting the county’s depth and range of expertise.

The Top 100 companies also have a wide range of turnover from £18.9m up to £598.2m. The collective turnover for the top 100 increased by 15.8% to £6.7bn in the period under review. A similarly strong growth also came through in profit or EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation), up 12.4% to £678.9m.

The number of people employed by the top 100 companies rose by 2.1% to 36,476, with the average salary up 5.1% to £33.9k during the period under review. This below-inflation salary increase reflects the strain on businesses to balance their longer-term talent strategies with rising margin pressures. This is a trend mirrored nationally, with Grant Thornton’s Business Outlook Tracker recently revealing that 52% of mid-market companies across the UK have frozen salary increases, with a further 36% planning to do so. Almost half (48%) have also frozen workforce bonuses.

Elsewhere, the Suffolk Limited report revealed fixed assets are up 10.3% to £2.28bn while gearing remained stable at 0.36.

Tim Taylor, Practice Leader for Grant Thornton UK LLP in East Anglia, said: “Suffolk has a well-earned reputation as a hotbed for enterprise. That is reflected in the Suffolk Limited report, which serves as a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the 100 most successful private companies in the county. These firms act as beacons to the wider business community, offering inspiration and encouragement regarding what can be achieved, even in the most challenging of circumstances.

“Indeed, the excellent results showcased in the report are all the more remarkable when one considers the significant challenges the UK economy has faced in recent years.

“In terms of revenue growth, we’ve seen some very strong numbers – in part this is a very welcome return to normal revenue levels for some businesses for whom trading was previously significantly impacted by the pandemic.

“Looking ahead, Suffolk businesses are putting measures in place that will help the transition to a zero-carbon economy through sustainable food production and clean energy generation. East Anglia is at the forefront of the Southern North Sea transition and is developing a strong presence in bioenergy, hydrogen, and energy storage industries.

“As the pressure to meet Net Zero targets grows, we expect to see more companies from this vital sector in future iterations of our report.”

Alexandra Nelson, Partner in the Ipswich Corporate Team at Birketts, said: “The Suffolk Limited Report provides us with a great opportunity to assess how the county has fared over the last year and it is really encouraging to see that Suffolk’s top 100 private companies have continued to show such resilience.

“Our county’s top 100 face an incredibly testing trading environment, with increases in base costs and interest rates putting increased pressure on margins. However, Suffolk is a county of opportunity, with significant investment being made in our transport infrastructure improving links from our ports to the wider economy and largescale projects, such as the development of Sizewell C, bringing with it job creation and economic advantages for our local economy.

“The innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of our country’s top companies gives us confidence that they will be well prepared to weather the challenges and take advantage of opportunities as they arise.”

Reflecting on how his own business has adapted to recent challenges, One Group Construction, Richard Neall, Group CEO of One Group Construction – number eight in the top 100 – said: “Our markets have changed significantly. Construction material cost inflation, the retail sector boom and then collapse, and then the effects of Brexit on our logistics business have been just a few of our challenges.

“In terms of strategy, the impact has been simple. We are now even more agile in our decision making and content to change direction quickly or even U-turn when the next craziness lands.”

Access the full report here.

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