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.
Fashion retailer Primark operates over 370 stores in 12 countries — the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, France, Italy, the US and Slovenia. Founded by Arthur Ryan in June 1969, the company’s first store on 47 Mary Street, Dublin, remains operative to this day. The company is a subsidiary of Associated British Foods and is headed up by CEO Paul Marchant, accounting for about half of AB Foods’ revenue and profit. Primark opened five new UK stores this year, including its biggest yet, a 14,800 sq metre retail space over five floors in Birmingham. There are more openings planned in the UK and Europe over the next year, which will include its first store in Poland and four more stores in the US – including in New Jersey, Florida, Chicago and Philadelphia.
Perhaps Ireland’s best-known company, the low-cost airline is the number one International airline, carrying 153 million customers annually and operating over 2,400 flights every day across 2,100 routes. Ryanair flies out of 239 airports in 40 countries. Over the last year Ryanair took a 75% stake in Austrian airline Laudamotion, which opened bases in Austria and Germany, flying Airbus aircraft. Ryanair Sun continued to grow, with five aircraft operating charter flights from Poland to the Mediterranean.
Servier is an international pharmaceutical company governed by a non-profit foundation, with headquarters in France. With a strong international presence in 149 countries and a turnover of €4.176 billion in 2018, Servier employs 22,000 people worldwide. Entirely independent, Servier reinvests 25% of its turnover (excluding generic drugs) in research and development. It currently has 33 drug candidates including 22 new molecular entities at various stages of clinical development.
Shorla Pharma is a female-led healthcare company that develops innovative, high barrier to entry pharmaceutical therapies with a particular interest in women’s and paediatric health. It was co-founded by Orlaith O’Brien and Sharon Cunningham, who both formerly held senior management roles in EirGen Pharma. Since the setting up of Shorla Pharma in January 2018, the company has raised €2m to develop oncology drugs for rare forms of cancer in women and children. In June, the company had a development meeting with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and plans to launch on the US market in 2021.
Founded 159 years ago in Cork, Sisk Group has expanded from local builder to international construction giant. Though it’s primary focus is construction, the group’s portfolio includes Consumer Products, Property, and other investments in Ireland, Europe, and the Middle East. Sisk has recently delivered the Capital Dock Development—a mixed-use development, spread across three apartment blocks—that includes Ireland’s tallest residential building, along with 32,000m2 of commercial space.
Smurfit Kappa Group
A world leader in paper-based packaging with approximately $8.5 billion in global sales, Smurfit Kappa employs over 43,000 people globally, across 35 countries, and owns multiple recycling and manufacturing operations. Jefferson Smurfit group became Smurfit Kappa after the 2005 merger with Kappa Packaging. Group CEO Tony Smurfit oversees global operations and in most recent results, for the 6 months ending 30 June 2019. Smurfit Kappa Group delivered revenue growth of over 4%, EBITDA of €847 million, up 17%, with a margin of 18.3% along with completing €190 million of acquisitions in Bulgaria, Colombia and Serbia.
The wind farm developer, founded over 20 years ago and now employing 750, is Ireland’s market-leading supplier of renewable energy. Its operations span 26 wind farms (including Ireland’s largest – Galway Wind Park), and a number of Power Purchase Agreements with third party wind and solar operators. Since 2008, The company has invested €2.5 billion in low-carbon energy infrastructure in Ireland.
Helmed by Group CEO, Mark Stafford, the family-run firm has existed since 1891 with activities ranging from sports retail, fuel, and shipping. Its chief subsidiary, Life Style Sports, boasts sales in excess of €100 million. In 2016, the retailer opened a 6,000 square feet flagship store on Dublin’s Grafton Street. In recent years, Mark Stafford, who took the reins in 2004, is said to harbour ambitions to expand Life Styles Sports’ reach into Europe.
Kerry company Taxamo, which offers an international VAT payment service for ecommerce companies that sell digital products, was founded by John McCarthy, son of Fexco founder Brian McCarthy. Their business is based on assuming the VAT liability for global companies selling digital products. It was among the first tranche of companies names as verified partners by Stripe in 2018, alongside names like Sage, Intercom and Shopify.
Tedcastle/ Top Oil
Top Oil and Tedcastle McCormick was founded in 1800 by Robert Tedcastle to import and distribute coal in the city of Dublin.
Today the Tedcastle Group of companies include Top – fuel importers and distributors, Top Kelly Fuels – an oil and coal importer and distributor in Northern Ireland, Bruce Lindsay, Tedcastle Aviation Fuels (TAF), and Tedcastle Properties, who look after group property interests in Ireland and the UK.
Orbidal fka Tenderscout
Orbidal is an end-to-end tender management platform for businesses who compete for public or private sector contracts. The start-up was previously known as Tenderscout but rebranded in early 2019 as part of its US-focused market strategy, where the terminology of ‘bidding’ for contracts is more common. Orbidal has 10 staff in Dublin and raised €1 million from investors last year.
A spin-out from Fyffes, chaired by Carl McCann, with a turnover in excess of €3.5 billion, Total Produce is one of the world’s largest fresh produce providers, and operates out of 39 countries while serving many more. Its industry leading vertically integrated supply chain extends across the globe incorporating over 260 facilities including farms, vessels, manufacturing facilities, cold storage warehousing and packhouses.
Transfermate Global Payments
TransferMate—a part of the Taxback Group—is a global B2B payments technology firm, enabling companies to send and receive cross-border payments faster and easier than ever before. TransferMate has built one of the largest portfolios of payments licences worldwide, including in 51 US states and territories, to support trading in 162 countries. Leading banks, fintechs and software providers partner with TransferMate to offer an enhanced user experience for their business customers. Using TransferMate’s technology and global banking infrastructure, companies benefit from better exchange rates, greater transparency and improved reconciliation via direct integration into accounting and ERP systems. TransferMate’s mass payments technology is trusted by banks and businesses globally to offer an enhanced user experience for their business customers. The company has created bespoke integrations for banks like ING, AIB and Wells Fargo and software providers such as Tradeshift, Coupa, and SAP Concur. The TransferMate API solution broadens the reach of the technology, enabling all businesses to utilise the technology, achieving significant time and financial savings. The years 2018 and 2019 have been pivotal in the growth of TransferMate, solidifying its position as market leaders in global payments, with a growth rate of 94% in 2018 alone. Given the pace of its growth, 2018 also saw an increase in its global team by 20%, now employing 312 people globally.
UDG Healthcare provides expert outsourced healthcare services specialising in advisory, communications, commercial, clinical and packaging for the pharmaceutical sector via two divisions; Ashfield and Sharp.
UDG Healthcare plc has experienced phenomenal growth over the last eight years. During this period, the Group has evolved from being primarily an Irish and UK-based supply chain business for pharmaceutical companies, to a global leader in advisory, communications, commercial and clinical and packaging services for healthcare across two divisions; Ashfield (70% of Group profits) and Sharp (30% of Group profits). The Group’s strategy has been to shift from a low growth, low margin supply chain business, into higher growth and higher margin outsourcing services for pharmaceutical companies. Executing this strategy has seen the Group make 21 acquisitions and four disposals since 2012. Over the past 5 years, Ashfield has generated a 14% operating profit CAGR while Sharp has generated a 15% operating profit CAGR. In 2018, the Group completed the final step in its strategic shift from a distributor for the pharmaceutical industry, to a service provider.
Uniphar is a diversified healthcare services organisation with activities in Ireland, UK, and the Benelux. It was established by Irish community pharmacists over 50 years ago to ensure access to medicines for their patients.
Over its first forty years in business, Uniphar grew organically and through merger and acquisition. In 2013, Uniphar bought Cahill May Roberts Ltd and became number two in the Irish pharmaceutical wholesale and distribution market. Since then, the company has gone through a significant period of growth, taking poll position in the Irish market and transforming itself to become a high growth diversified healthcare services company.
Uniphar floated on the stock market in July of this year raising €135 m on its initial IPO. The group generated revenue of €1.55 billion, gross profit of €1596m and EBITDA of €46.3m on a pro forma basis, in 2018.
This summer the company completed the acquisition of Durbin, a leading specialist medical supplier which has facilities in the UK and United States. This acquisition, which was completed ahead of schedule, ensures that Uniphar is well placed to become a global leader in the provision of product access solutions to speciality pharmaceutical organisations.
Canadian call centre giant Telus acquired a 55 per cent stake in Voxpro from founders Dan and Linda Kiely in August 2016 for $58 million (€52.4 million), with an option to acquire the rest of the company in a deal valued at up to $150 million. Telus International acquired the remaining interest in fast-growing Cork-based business process outsourcing company Voxpro that it did not already own in late November/early December this year., with Mr Kiely stepping down as CEO.
The Kielys started the business with just 6 employees in an office wedged above a Cork pub and grew it to a customer experience giant staffed by 5,000 global employees.
A heavyweight in electronic recycling such as data destruction, WiseTek began life in a hotel room, founded by former EMC employee Sean Sheehan. The group now employs 350, specialising in IT asset disposal (ITAD) services and courting clients such as Dell EMC, VCE, and McAfee. In 2017, Wisetek merged its US operations with those of DataKillers. The introduction of GDPR has proved a boon for the company, with the group reporting in October 2018 that overall group turnover had increased 67% on the back of American expansion and increased data security requirements such as GDPR.