As another challenging but immensely successful year for Irish business, in a domestic and global context, draws to a close we are delighted to release the Business & Finance 100, celebrating the ‘100 Most Outstanding Irish Companies of 2019’. The Index comprises the best performing, most innovative, and fastest growing companies.
It is no secret that Ireland’s economy has been gaining strength year on year from the dark days of the recession and at almost full employment, it’s a testimony to the country as a whole but to these companies in particular—driving as they are the immense success of the nation through the success of their business. The Business & Finance 100 comprises some well-known company names, as can only be expected—companies such as Smurfit Kappa, Aer Lingus, Primark and CPL—as well as newer companies that are constantly innovating, increasing their reach and scope and making waves such as Netwatch, Transfermate and eShopWorld.
Business & Finance are proud to recognise the Business & Finance 100 in the magazine, online and as an integral part of the Business & Finance Awards. The new decade is shaping up to be an exciting year and we look forward to reporting on the successes of these companies as they continue to flourish.
Increasingly recognised as the industry standard for Client Lifecycle Management solutions, Fenergo is a growing heavyweight in software for client on-boarding. The company was launched in Dublin in 2009 by Marc Murphy and now has offices which span North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. In 2015, Fenergo received an injection of $85m from Insight Venture Partners and Aquiline Capital Partners aimed at accelerating its growth and reach to meet regulatory and on-boarding challenges in new markets and financial institutions.
Founded in 1981 by Brian McCarthy, the international payments and FX company headquartered in Killorglin, Co Kerry, has over 2,800 employees worldwide, across 30 markets in Europe, the Middle East, North America, Latin America and Australasia. Its profit before tax jumped 80% to €19.3m in 2017. Although online and digital foreign exchange transactions remain the bigger part of Fexco’s overall operations, the Killorglin-headquartered company operates more than 100 high street foreign exchange shops in the UK and Ireland and a further 950 through the franchise model. It made two UK acquisitions during 2018 in the form of Change-Link and the Thomas Exchange Group.
Fiserv fka First Data
Fiserv (formerly known as First Data) is a global leader in payments and financial technology, serving thousands of financial institutions and millions of merchants and businesses in more than 100 countries. The company helps clients achieve best-in-class results through a commitment to innovation and excellence in areas including account processing and digital banking solutions; card issuer processing and network services; payments; e-commerce; merchant acquiring and processing; and the Clover™ cloud-based point-of-sale solution. Fiserv is a member of the S&P 500® Index and the FORTUNE®500, and is among the FORTUNE Magazine World’s Most Admired Companies®.
The Newry-based firm now has operational bases in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia to service its global client base. It is recognised as one of the fastest growing capital markets service providers in the world and now employs over 2,400 employees worldwide. The year 2018 saw it reach a billion pound valuation and FD reported a 23 per cent rise in revenues to £186 million (€212 million) in the 12 months to end-February 2018. FD has announced it expects to create a further 1,000 jobs over the next three years. This employee expansion builds on sustained growth at FD, with annual growth averaging 31% over the past three years.
Flutter Entertainment fka Paddy Power Betfair
Paddy Power Betfair bookmaking business was created by the merger of Paddy Power and Betfair, completed in February 2016. In March 2019 the company announced that it would rebrand as Flutter Entertainment, pending shareholder approval at the company’s annual general meeting in May. Flutter was originally the name of a betting exchange acquired by Betfair in December 2001.
A Cork-based healthcare software firm, founded by Noel O’Hanlon, a finalist in the 2018 EY Entrepreneur of the Year programme, Genesis Automation is a specialised traceability and analytics platform which helps hospitals to manage supplies and enhance patient safety.
The company has a close relationship with the UK’s National Health Service, partnering with a number of NHS trusts and helping to grow its client base to a total of 27 hospitals. In May 2018, Genesis secured a $1 million (€882,000), five-year deal with the Texas-based Driscoll Children’s Hospital, following a €21m raise to grow its operations in the US market—with €20m invested in the company by a British-based private equity fund, and a further €1m invested by IPF Partners, a Luxembourg-based healthcare funder which had previously backed the company with around €6m in venture debt.
This year started on a high for the company with another multimillion dollar deal with a US private hospital chain Novant Health announced in January, which the firm expects will act as a springboard to rapid expansion there. Novant Health comprises 15 hospitals spread across north and south Carolina and Virginia.
The company is the market leader for its service in the UK, but has been slower to expand in Ireland given the fragmented nature of the market. Tallaght Hospital signed up to its service last year. Additionally, Genesis is incorporated in British Columbia in Canada in a bid to gain market share there.
The Glen Dimplex Group, founder by Martin Naughton in 1973 remains privately held, with manufacturing and development centres for its electrical goods in the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, China and many other locations around the world. Glen Dimplex North America has grown substantially, and dominates in the electric heating, stoves, fireplace and industrial cooling markets across the continent, offering a range of highly innovative products and solutions. Dimplex Thermal Solutions is a US manufacturer of industrial and medical process chillers.
Recently acquired by Staffline Group, Grafton Recruitment has grown to become one of Ireland’s most well-known recruitment agencies. Founded in 1983, the group has expanded steadily since that time, increasing its locations to nine and now employing more than 100 staff.
Grafton Recruitment ended 2018 with end of year sales of £110m, and gross profit of over £13m. The company projects a turnover of £180m for the end of year 2019, and currently has 250 members of staff with 10 branches across the island of Ireland.
Grafton Recruitment recently opened a new office in Cork City Centre, marking the beginning of an expansion which will see the company open four new offices in Galway, Limerick, Dundalk and Sligo over the coming months. These branches will create up to 30 new jobs as well as identifying thousands of jobs for applicants, with plans for further expansion across the Grafton network expected in the next five years.
Grafton Recruitment placed 6,200 people in permanent jobs and 8,000 daily temporary workers into roles over the past year across Ireland. The company has grown year on year, with plans to increase its current headcount to 300 by the end of 2020.
Greencore Group plc is a leading international convenience food company. It was established by the Irish government in 1991 when they privatised Irish Sugar, and has up to now been the world’s largest sandwich manufacturer. Headed up by Pagltrick Coveney and listed on the London Stock Exchange, it is part of the FTSE 250 Index. In 2018 shareholders approved the sale of its US operations, which will see Patrick Coveneny stay on as CEO of a more focused business, after he had split his time to oversee the restructuring of the US side. Greencore completed the acquisition of convenience food maker Freshtime in September of this year for just under €62 million. Announcing the latest results in November 2019, Patrick Coveney, CEO of Greencore said, “Over the past twelve months we have fundamentally reset our business, anchored by a clear strategy to drive shareholder value by expanding our category and channel capabilities within the diverse, growing and attractive UK food to go market.”
Havok is a leading provider of games development technologies, which have been used in top franchises including Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty. Their products have also been used to drive special effects in movies including Harry Potter, James Bond and the Matrix series. Havok has offices in Dublin, San Francisco, Tokyo, and Germany. Founded in Dublin in 1998 by Hugh Reynolds and Steven Collins, it was acquired by Microsoft. In 2015.
The Heatons Group is Ireland’s largest department store group employing over 2,000 people across Ireland. The company has three brands; Heatons Department stores (54 stores across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland), SportsWorld (28 stores in the Republic of Ireland) and Sports Direct (15 stores in Northern Ireland). Heatons has been named as one of Ireland’s ‘Best Managed’ companies in the ‘Deloitte Best Managed Companies Awards Programme’.
A family-owned retailer which launched as a small grocery in 1897, Henderson Group has expanded to become one of Ireland’s largest retail suppliers. Its Wholesale division provides goods to 400 stores across Northern Ireland, while its retail operation has ownership of 75 Spar and EuroSpar locations. The group’s activities also span several independent entities including Henderson Technology (point of sale software), Henderson Group Property (retail development) and Henderson Foodservice (provision of catering products).
Since its foundation in Dublin in 1990, Icon has grown to become a global leader in clinical research and provider of outsourced development services to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries. From a small team of 5 people in 1990, Icon has grown to employ over 13,380 people across 97 locations in 38 countries, through a mixture of organic growth and strategic acquisitions. Icon opened its first US office in Philadelphia in 1992, and began trading on the Nasdaq exchange in 1998. Icon now employs 4,600 in the US.
In its recently reported third-quarter 2019 results, Icon posted record net business wins in the quarter of $931 million with a book to bill of 1.31. Quarter 3 reported revenue of $710.4 million representing strong year on year growth of 8.5% or 9.5% on a constant currency basis. Adjusted earnings per share attributable to the Group of $1.74, a robust increase of 12.9% over Q3 2018. Year to date adjusted earnings per share attributable to the Group of $5.06, a 13.0% increase over prior year.
CEO Dr. Steve Cutler commented, “ICON’s quarter 3 results show continuing growth and represent a strong endorsement of our overall strategy.
“Given our strong progress this year we are increasing our 2019 revenue guidance from a range of $2,760 – $2,840 million to a range of $2,790 – $2,830 million and we are increasing earnings guidance from a range of $6.75 – $6.95 to $6.81 – $6.95.”
Celebrating 70 years since its foundation this year, Ireland’s inward investment promotion agency, IDA Ireland, is a non-commercial, semi-state body promoting Foreign Direct Investment into Ireland through a wide range of services. It partners with potential and existing investors to help them establish or expand their operations in Ireland. Over the past 70 years IDA Ireland has evolved to become a global force in attracting FDI to Ireland and a key influencer in the development of the Irish economy and its reputation abroad.
Cork-based Inver Energy is a leading nationwide fuel importer which provides 10 per cent of Ireland’s fuel requirements. Founded in 1983, the firm operates the Foynes Oil Terminal in Limerick. Inver Energy was acquired by UK-firm Greenergy in 2017, retaining its existing management team, and promising accelerated expansion. In the same year, the firm recorded a profit of €2.4m on the back of a turnover in excess of €470 million. Inver’s Managing Director, Chris O’Callaghan, said: “Greenergy’s global reach and financial resources will allow Inver to execute our growth strategy across all facets of the business.”
IQ-EQ is a leading investor services group that combines global expertise with an unwavering focus on client service delivery. With a team of 2,450+ people operating across 23 jurisdictions, it supports fund managers, global companies, family offices and private clients operating worldwide. Its precursor, First Names Group joined forces with SGG Group in 2018 and then collectively rebranded as IQ-EQ in March 2019.
One of Ireland’s best-known life assurance and pensions companies, Irish Life joined the Great-West Life group in 2013 as part of a $1.7 billion deal. In 2016, the group launched Irish Life Health following the acquisition of GloHealth and Aviva Health. Great-West Life itself, a Canadian entity, now administers over $1.3 trillion in consolidated assets, serving 30 million customers globally. In the Irish market, the group also manages €2.6 billion in property assets, with plans to increase its portfolio to €33 billion within the next decade.
Kainos was established in 1986 as a joint venture between ICL (later Fujitsu) and Qubis. It now employs 1,470 people across seven countries. The company delivers IT solutions, consulting and specialised digital products to its clients who are predominantly in the Public, Health and Financial Services sectors. Kainos work with over 150 well-known global organisations and large government departments, ranging from the NHS to Chanel to Netflix.
In the company’s most recent financial results, Kainos noted a strong performance, representing the ninth consecutive year of growth in revenue and adjusted pre-tax profit, delivered organically.
Strong sales execution continues to underpin further revenue growth of 56% to £151.3 million (2018: £96.7 million).
Kainos now employs 1,470 people, up 26% and their recruitment activity is ongoing. The company opened two new offices in 2019, in Toronto and Paris, which complement its existing European presence in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Gdansk, Helsinki and, in the United States, Atlanta and Indianapolis.
Beginning with a family farm in 1926, three generations of Keelings have grown their fruit business into Ireland’s largest horticultural concern. The group’s operations now span five divisions and 2,000 employees, operating across Europe, and reporting sales in excess of €300 million in 2016. Two thirds of sales come from within Ireland, with the UK and France as its next-largest markets. Keelings remains family-owned & run, with Caroline Keeling acceding to the position of CEO in 2012. In 2016, she said: “On the funding side of it, we are a family business, it’s 100pc family-owned and currently we’re happy with that.” In September 2018, Keelings announced an expansion of its FoodCentral business park – a 280-acre site near Dublin Airport which hosts a range of Irish food-industry companies.
A family-run business that began with a butcher’s shop, Kepak has grown to an internationally operating, multi-faceted food innovator with 30,000 employees across 30 countries, and the first Irish meat Irish meat processing company to launch an Irish beef retail brand —Celtic Beef Company—in the USA. In Ireland, Kepak pledged to donate some 4.2 tonnes of produce to homeless charity Simon Community over the winter of 2018, reducing the Simon Community’s meat costs by almost 30%.