Top 100 private Scots firms: £40bn revenue, 136k staff

Grant Thornton’s Scotland Limited report for 2024 shows that Scotland’s top 100 private limited companies make reported revenue of £40 billion, EBITDA of £7 billion and employ 136,000 people.

Scotland’s top 25 private firms are listed as: NEO Energy, Aggreko, Arnold Clark, William Grant & Sons, Edrington Group, Miller Homes, KCA Deutag, Waldorf Production, City Facilities, Parks Motor Group, James Jones, Centurion Group, Farmfoods, Ogilvie Group, ASCO Group, Forth Ports, Eastern Western, GAP Group, John Clark Motor Group, Baxters, Wood Mackenzie, Advance Construction Group, Envoy Group, OEG Offshore and Donaldson Group.

The report concluded: “While we can never predict what’s around the corner with any certainty, the Top 100 featured in this year’s report highlights the breadth and strength of their contribution to Scotland’s offering as a small but powerful nation, with a bright future ahead.”

The energy and natural resources sector was by far the most profitable in 2023. The 10 companies included in the Top 100 reported a combined EBITDA of £3.1 billion on an aggregate revenue of £6.5 billion.

Just over half (51) of the Scotland Limited Top 100 private companies are headquartered in and around the west of the country, with a sizeable proportion of leading food and drink, business support services and automotive companies based there.

On the trading performance of the Top 100, the reports said all metrics were substantially up over the last four years: turnover up 38%; EBITDA up 95%; net assets up 34%. “The increased profitability in the latest period is largely offset by an increase in aggregate debt levels up 16%,” said Grant Thornton.

Only 13 companies’ turnover decreased in the last year, indicative of a recovering economy, while 19 companies delivered more than 50% growth in turnover.

“Scotland Limited 2024 is compiled using the most recent publicly available accounts (as of 31 March 2024) of Scotland’s best performing private businesses, which we rank based on a hybrid measure of data, including turnover and EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation),” said the report.

“The report excludes companies that are publicly listed, owned by listed businesses or are the Scottish subsidiaries of companies headquartered in other parts of the UK or overseas.

“We have then analysed the aggregate financial data of these companies to gain an insight into the shape and performance of this important part of the Scottish economy, and one which is fundamental to generating prosperity and employment in the country.”

Neil McInnes, Grant Thornton’s Head of Corporate Finance Scotland, wrote: “As at March 2023, an estimated 340,760 private sector businesses were operating in Scotland.

“To put our Top 100 companies in context, excluding foreign-owned companies, they represent less than 0.1% of the total private company landscape in Scotland, but account for nearly 25% of the total private company revenue and nearly 12% of total private company employment.

“Their achievements and contributions deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated. They are exemplars, setting a path that should inspire others.

“They have demonstrated an ability to innovate, diversify, transform, and grow despite the aforementioned headwinds …

“We have seen a record 27 new entrants in total this year, which may be a combination of businesses bouncing back from a difficult trading period and natural progression up the ranks as a result of ongoing success. Notably, we have seen several standout performers in the energy sector this year.

“For example, NEO Energy has seen a meteoric rise from featuring just outside the top 20 last year to secure the new number one spot. Interestingly, one of the fastest growing companies behind NEO Energy is an independent family business, CCL Components which supplies solar energy equipment. This is a brand new entrant to this year’s report, yet it has catapulted straight in to the number 50 spot.

“Target Healthcare, which is a distinguished MHRA-approved pharmaceutical manufacturer and wholesaler is an interesting example. It only formed a decade ago but has grown rapidly following various acquisitions of pharmaceutical manufacturers, and debuts in our report at number 89. Our 2024 report also sees the return of the technology sector being represented in the Top 100, with Petroleum Experts earning their place at number 80.

“It will be interesting to monitor the progress of these and other new entrants in the coming years.

“This all adds up to an exciting time for Scotland and it is our pleasure to congratulate and acknowledge these success stories.

“Despite Scotland’s undoubted entrepreneurial zeal and fiscal acumen, leading the way is never easy, but these inspiring businesses have done an incredible job of using creativity and commercial nous to grow their operations regardless of the challenging conditions.”

The report said: “This year saw several large companies leave the Top 100, including businesses that were sold to foreign or listed acquirors, including: Scott Group (acquired by BSW Timber (ultimately owned by Binderholz, Austrian)); PD&MS (acquired by RSK Group, England); Barclay & Mathieson (acquired by Marubeni-Itochu Steel Inc., Japanese); and W. N. Lindsay (acquired by Simpsons Malt, English).

“Unsurprisingly, this year’s report has also seen the swift return of those businesses that had been heavily impacted by the pandemic with Edinburgh Airport (29), The Scotsman Group (47) and Apex Hotels (87) featuring this year.

“All three had previously dropped out of the Top 100 in the 2022 report due to their respective industries facing severe challenges. Interestingly, we have seen a record number of new entrants into this year’s Top 100 (27 in total), demonstrating the changing shape of Scotland’s Top 100 private companies.

“The highest new entry is Waldorf Production – a privately held oil and gas production company based in Aberdeen. Having only formed in 2019, this company has seen a meteoric rise to eighth spot in this year’s report.

“Also joining them is Wood Mackenzie (21), having been taken back into private ownership, with the acquisition from Verisk being funded by Veritas Capital.

“The highest riser was Castle View Ventures, which moved 59 places up to 28, having been significantly impacted by Covid-19 restrictions in the previous period.

“Other new entrants include: OEG Offshore (24); Emtelle (30); CCL Components (50); Miller Developments (52); The R&A (59); MV Commercial (60); Tillicoultry Quarries (61); The Insights Group (66); Morris Leslie (72); Russell Logistics (78); Petroleum Experts (80); The Rangers Football Club (85); Target Healthcare (89); Meallmore (90); Murgitroyd (91); McQueens Dairies (92); Wrights Dental (93); Patersons Quarries (96); McAlpine (97); AG Restaurants (98); Leiths Group (99); and North Star Shipping (100).”