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Suffolk’s top businesses surpass pre-pandemic trading levels

During 2022, Suffolk’s top 100 businesses bounced back from the COVID-19 lockdowns and are now surpassing pre-pandemic levels, according to new data from Grant Thornton UK LLP.

The leading business and financial adviser’s annual Suffolk Limited report found that the top 100 companies* in the county achieved a 60% increase in combined operating profits this year compared to 2019.

The Suffolk Limited report, which is compiled in collaboration with law firm Birketts, provides an annual review of Suffolk’s most successful businesses as measured by annual turnover levels.

Several other key metrics showed that the county’s leading businesses are exceeding, or at least matching, where they were before the COVID-19 lockdowns began. The total combined employee numbers across the 100 are 2.4% higher than in 2019 and combined turnover is just 0.1% lower than 2019.
Whilst modest, the turnover difference has been achieved despite several large companies which featured in the 2019 figures having dropped out of the report following acquisitions by companies outside of the county. The true increase in Suffolk’s turnover is therefore likely to be even higher.
Another important indicator of the county’s economic landscape is that average pay amongst the top 100 companies is now nearly £32,000, which is an almost 6% increase over the last year and is up by just over 11% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Total turnover for the county’s top 100 companies reached £5.6bn in 2022, which is up 10% on 2021, with Turners of Soham Ltd reporting the overall highest turnover at more than £519m. Maritime Group reported the largest absolute increase in turnover of £111m to £416m, while Turners of Soham also posted the largest increase in operating profit at just over £29m.

The three sectors employing the most staff in the county remain identical to before the pandemic, being transport & motor retail, retail & wholesale, and services. Since 2019, transport & motor retail and services have switched positions as first and third largest employers.

Tim Taylor, Partner and Practice Leader at Grant Thornton UK LLP, said: “The Suffolk Limited report gives us a great opportunity to assess how Suffolk’s economy has fared over the past year by providing a real measure of the wealth created, retained and re-invested by the county’s key business decision makers.

“We can see that not only are Suffolk’s leading companies doing well compared to last year, but we can officially say that the top 100 businesses are now marching ahead of where they were prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This comes despite another turbulent 12 months, which is a real testament to the resilience and drive of those companies.

Rob Thomson, a Director at Grant Thornton UK LLP and head of its Suffolk Tax business, said: “Not only is turnover up to an impressive £5.6bn, but our analysis shows that there is growth in both fixed and current assets, while liabilities and overall debt has fallen. When combined with the fact that businesses are continuing to invest in infrastructure while increasing cash levels, Suffolk’s companies seem well prepared to meet the current cost-of-living challenges and inflationary pressures.”

Jonathan Agar, CEO at Birketts, said: “While the past couple of years have been incredibly challenging for businesses, it is encouraging to see that Suffolk’s leading companies have not just bounced back to where they were before the pandemic, but achieved even more growth. To have surpassed pre-pandemic trading levels proves just how resilient and stable the county’s businesses have become. There is no doubt that the next 12-24 months will be equally as testing, but these latest findings provide confidence that Suffolk’s businesses can navigate these challenges and still prosper.”

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