2021 certainly was an eventful year. It began with much of the developed world in lockdown due to the resurgence of the Covid-19 virus after a period when it appeared that it was beginning to subside. And much of the year was punctuated by the imposition, lifting and re-imposition of public health measures aimed at curbing the worst impacts of the virus.
The year will also be recalled as one when human ingenuity in the face of the greatest challenges was demonstrated by the rapid roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines across much of the developed world resulting in an effective return to near normal life by early 2022.
Meanwhile, business and economic life continued apace. Agreement was finally reached on BEPS 2.0 global tax reform and the global minimum tax rate – although that may now be put on the long finger.
The COP26 global gathering in Glasgow promised much in the way of breakthroughs on co-ordinated international efforts to avert the climate catastrophe but delivered relatively little in the end. However, it did see Mark Carney’s Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) grouping committing over $130 trillion of private capital to transforming the economy to meet net zero targets. As the year drew to a close, the spectre of inflation once again loomed large after an absence of well over a decade. At time of writing there has been no real sign of a let-up with the situation being further exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and its impacts on energy and other commodity prices.
Over the next few pages, we look at the top performing companies during the year and some of the other key trends that emerged.The Top 10
It was very much a case of as you were for the Top 10 companies in 2021. Nine of the companies which featured in last year’s ranking feature once again with Dell, which replaced AbbVie in tenth spot, being the only change.
There was no change whatsoever in the Top 5 with Apple once again leading the way. Despite global supply chain disruptions and semiconductor shortages created by the Covid-19 pandemic, the iPhone maker grew revenues by a colossal 47 per cent to €179.9 billion for the year ended September 2021. This was a continuation of the dramatic growth in revenues of 54 per cent reported for the second half of 2020 for the company which recently said goodbye to its iconic iPod product.
Google remains in a very distant second, just ahead of Microsoft. The Silicon Valley search giant saw its Irish revenues increase by 5.9 per cent to €48.4 billion. However, that figure relates to the financial year ended December 31, 2020, so the full impacts of long-term home and remote working during the pandemic are not reflected.
A more accurate picture is probably painted by the company’s global results for 2021 which saw revenue growth of 41 per cent to a new record of $256.74 billion.
Pandemic impacts were also in evidence for Microsoft whose financial year ended on June 30, 2021. The Redmond, Washington based software colossus grew its Irish revenues by a very respectable 13.5 per cent in a period when usage of its Teams communication and collaboration product more than doubled.
The social media behemoth formerly known as Facebook continues its Irish growth trajectory. Meta, as the company is now called, has been among the fastest growing companies in the Top 1000 for several years and this year is no different.
The company saw its revenues rise by 47 per cent for the year ended December 31, 2020, equalling the number posted by Apple, albeit for an earlier period. Meta announced growth in global revenues of 37 per cent for the year ended December 31, 2021, indicating that there is little sign of any let-up in growth for the company. Indeed, reports of the decline in popular for its Facebook social media platform appear premature to say the least.
Completing the top five is home grown Irish construction materials giant CRH. The company holds onto the fifth spot it claimed last year having climbed two places despite a decline in revenues caused by pandemic related disruption across many of its key markets including Europe.
CRH has shown a return to healthy growth this year posting an increase in revenue to €267.4 billion, up 11 per cent on 2020. Even more each catching was company’s profit for the year which more than doubled from €1.4 billion in 2020 to €2.9 billion in 2021.
Last year saw the inclusion in the Top 10 of a number of companies which have made Ireland their global headquarters. While the great majority of their activities are conducted outside of Ireland and the bulk of their employees work beyond these shores, the fact that their headquarters are located here means that their global revenues are included in the listing.
As was the case last year, medical technology leader Medtronic took sixth spot. The company, which moved its headquarters to Ireland following its takeover of Covidien in 2015, saw global revenue rise by 5.5 per cent to €24.8 billion.
Climbing one place to seventh is Irish sales, marketing and support services group DCC. The company recorded a 26 per cent increase in revenue for the year ended March 31, 2022.
Next on the list is fire and security equipment specialist Johnson Controls which became Irish headquartered in 2016 following its merger with Tyco International. Revenues for the company were flat at €19.2 billion for the period under review but the latest figures to hand are for the year ending September 29, 2020. It remains to be seen what the full impact of Covid-19 was on the company.
Another relatively recent headquarters arrival occupies ninth place. Power management systems manufacturer Eaton Corp established its global headquarters in Ireland following its 2013 acquisition of Cooper Industries. The company retains its position in the Top 10 after a year when revenues grew 10 per cent to €17.3 billion.
New entrant Dell completes the Top 10 despite its Irish revenue dipping slightly to €12.6 billion for the year ended January 29, 2021. The company climbed from 12th position last year overtaking MSD and AbbVie in the process. MSD saw its revenues decline from €13.8 billion to €10.2 billion during the period ending December 31, 2021.
Abbvie is a different question, however. The company was included in the Top 10 for the first time last year following its $63 billion acquisition of Allergan and the inclusion of the latter company’s €14 billion in revenues to AbbVie’s total. However, AbbVie has not included those revenues in its post deal reporting for its Irish entity and the company no longer features in the top half of the Top 1000 as a result.How the financials stack up
There’s been quite a bit of movement in our financial rankings since last year. 2020 saw the entry of Barclays Bank Ireland to the market and the new player emerged as Ireland’s largest commercial bank ahead of established incumbents Bank of Ireland and AIB. Indeed, Barclays’ asset total was only exceeded by that of the Central Bank of Ireland.
This year’s picture is very different, however. Bank of Ireland has climbed from number three to the number one spot following asset growth of 15 per cent from €134 billion to €155 billion. The Central Bank of Ireland falls to the number two spot with assets of €141 billion while AIB moves into third ahead of Barclays following growth in assets from €110 billion to €127 billion (15 per cent).
Barclays, on the other hand, saw a decline in assets from €135 billion to €117 billion which saw it fall from second to fourth spot.
The other Irish owned retail bank, Permanent TSB, comes in at 16th place with assets of €22 billion.
The two entities shortly to depart the Irish market, Ulster Bank and KBC Bank Ireland, occupy 11th and 22nd places respectively.
Turning to the insurance sector, Irish Life remains in fifth spot followed by Intesa Sao Paolo Life at number nine. Standard Life International in 10th is among those firms which has benefited from a Brexit bounce with the company relocating a large number of euro denominated policies following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.
Zurich Life occupies 12th spot while Zurich Insurance is number 14 followed by New Ireland Assurance in 15th.
In what was an exceptionally difficult period for the aviation leasing sector, Aercap retained its top spot at number seven in the overall listing for financials. They are followed by Avolon in 13th and SMBC Aviation Capital in 21st.
The billion euro earners
Billion euro profits while still far from the norm are becoming a feature of the leading companies in our Top 1000 survey. Not surprisingly, the list of billion euro earners is dominated by the Irish operations of US tech and life sciences companies.
Top of the list by a quite extraordinary distance is Apple where profits almost doubled from a staggering €29 billion in 2020 to €57.7 billion in 2021. Every other company’s profits are dwarfed in comparison.
The scale of the difference is illustrated by the fact that Medtronic in second place reported profits of €3 billion for the year.
In a notable achievement, Irish construction materials giant comes in at number three with profits of €2.9 billion. This represents a very strong recovery from last year’s €1.4 billion and exceeds even the €2.1 million made in 2019 before the pandemic struck.
Equally notable for its absence from this year’s listing is Boston Scientific which topped last year’s ranking with profits of €34 billion. However, those exceptional profits were the result of the sale of its intellectual property assets and this year’s profits fell to just €12 million.
Coming in at number four is Google at €2.8 billion, followed by Microsoft in five with €2.6 billion in profits. Power management systems manufacturer Eaton Corp occupies sixth spot with €2.5 billion in profits with Adobe coming just behind with €2.49 billion.
Industrial manufacturing company Trane Technologies is next on €1.5 billion followed by Alexion Pharmaceuticals in ninth position with €1.3 billion in profits.
The ongoing recovery in the Irish banking sector is reflected in Bank of Ireland’s return to the billion euro listing in 10th place with €1.2 million in profits, a dramatic turnaround from the €760 million loss reported in 2020.
Rounding out our listing of billion dollar earners this year is Citibank. The bank, which has been a consistent investor in its Irish operations for many years, reported profits of €1.1 billion for the year ended December 31st, 2021, up from €387 million the previous year.A good year for grocers
Anecdotal evidence during the pandemic suggested that grocery retailers would be among the better performers. Classified as essential services grocery stores were not forced to shut their doors, even if the discount retailers did have to shut their middle aisles for a period following pressure from others in the retail sector.
The visible evidence of high demand was there on the streets in the form of queues of customers waiting to get into stores which had to conform to strict limits on the number of people they could accommodate at any one time.
But just how well did they fare? Quite well according to the results of our survey.
Musgrave Group, the wholesaler and distributor behind the SuperValu and Centra brands, saw revenue increase 13 per cent to €4.4 billion in 2021 and moved from 31st to 27th spot in the Top 1000 ranking.
Dunnes actually fell by one place to number 31 despite revenue rising from €4 billion to €4.1 billion. That rather flat performance is likely due to the company’s high levels of drapery and hardware sales which were hit by public health restrictions during the pandemic.
Tesco fared similarly with a fall from 40th to 42nd in the rankings despite a small increase in revenue. Tesco would not have been as impacted as severely by pandemic restrictions as Dunnes, but they certainly would have had some dampening effect.
The big winners were the discounters. Lidl jumped 10 places in the rankings to 54th position following a 35 per cent increase in revenue to €2.2 billion. Aldi climbed 12 places to number 56 after seeing its revenue rise by 29 per cent to €2 billion.
BWG, the company behind the Spar, Mace, and Londis brands, moved up one place to 65th as a result of a 6 per cent increase in revenue to €1.7 billion.