Essex Limited survey shows county’s top firms are investing for growth

Paul Dearsley of Grant Thornton and Tracey Dickens of Birkett Long.

Paul Dearsley of Grant Thornton and Tracey Dickens of Birkett Long. - Credit: Archant

Increases in employment and pay indicate that Essex’s leading companies are investing for future growth, according to a new report.

The annual Essex Limited study, conducted by business advisers Grant Thornton and law firm Birkett Long, focuses on the performance of the 100 largest companies which are both owned and managed within the county.

Combined turnover for this year’s 100 leading firms was 5.3% up year-on-year at £7.7billion, with operating profit 1.4% higher at £322million and pre-tax profit jumping by 22.4% to £296m.

Employment levels across the 100 companies rose by 2.5% to 46,909, representing an increase of 1,114 jobs, and the average salary of those employed by Essex Limited firms increased by 8.1% to £26,463, well above all measures of inflation.

But despite the increased wage bill, debt levels and gearing – the ratio of debt to equity – have both improved, with total debt falling by 19% to £1.1bn and gearing moving from 87% to what Grant Thornton describes as “a much healthier” 65%.

Paul Dearsley from Grant Thornton’s Chelmsford office said: “It’s exciting to again report such promising growth. Last year, aggregate turnover remained broadly flat but this year we have seen significant growth, above that of the national economy, along with a continued rise in profits.

“This shows the county’s largest companies have worked hard to grow turnover but not at the detriment of final profits, providing further testimony of the quality businesses the Essex attracts and retains.

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“Gearing levels have also reduced which we believe shows a shift towards internally generated funding. This is supported by increased employee numbers and wages rising at an above inflation average, demonstrating Essex businesses are investing in staff for future growth.”