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Companies defy uncertainty

Earnings and headcount rise at Scotland’s top firms

Glenfiddich whisky

Glenfiddich, made by William Grant & Son, one of the biggest Scottish firms


Scotland’s top 100 private companies have enjoyed a rise in combined earnings and headcount, despite growing economic and political uncertainty.

Combined earnings (EBITDA) rose from £2.3 billion in 2017 to £2.7 billion last year. Meanwhile, headcount among the top firms has risen from 119,087 to 138,234.

Grant Thornton’s annual Scotland Limited report has revealed that Scotland’s food and drink sector contains 24 companies, one less than in 2017 but the highest share of the top 100 for the fourth year in a row.  Employee numbers are also down – from 24,552 to 23,875. However, EBITDA increased from just under £720m to £859m.

James Chadwick, Grant Thornton UK’s Head of Food & Drink in Scotland, said: “The food and drink sector has had something of a party for the last few years.

“The sector has demonstrated what can be achieved by having a clear focus on coordinated and collaborative growth – the creation of a single international brand, offering a platform for businesses of all sizes to access the international marketplace.

“International growth will be challenging during 2019 as we see the full impact Brexit will have on supply chains and businesses’ ability to meet the needs of an increasingly global consumer base.”

Glasgow and the West of Scotland is the dominant region with 42 firms having combined earnings (EBITDA) of more than £1.09bn, and 68,785 employees.

Key Scotland Limited 2018 findings:

  • Top 3 companies:
  1. Arnold Clark Automobiles Ltd.
  2. William Grant & Sons Holdings Ltd.
  3. Kcad Holdings I Ltd. (KCA Deutag)
  • Combined EBITDA of the top 100 firms: £2.72bn (£2.34bn in 2017)
  • Total turnover of the top 100 firms: £24.7bn (£21.5bn in 2017)
  • Total number of employees working for the top 100 firms: 138,234 (119,087 in 2017)
  • Total combined remuneration of employees working for the top 100 firms: £4.13bn (£3.31bn in 2017)


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