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13 November 2018

Strong performance for Hertfordshire businesses despite market uncertainty, says new report

Hertfordshire businesses have delivered another strong year of growth with increases in turnover, profitability and employment, demonstrating strong resilience during a period of significant political and economic uncertainty, according to a new report published today.

The annual Hertfordshire Limited study, conducted by financial and business advisers Grant Thornton, analyses the performance of the 200 largest, privately owned companies in the county to provide a recognised benchmark of the overall health of the local economy.

Headline results

The 2018 findings, unveiled to local businesses at a breakfast event hosted by Grant Thornton at Hatfield House, revealed that combined turnover of the top 200 companies increased by a healthy 13.1% from £14.1bn to just over £16bn.

Overall Profits (measured by EBITDA – Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) rose by an impressive 16.9% from £819 million to £958 million with both large and smaller businesses experiencing a meaningful upsurge in their trading performance.

Employment in the county also remained strong with the top 200 businesses growing their combined workforce by just under 1% to 93,871 with a pronounced increase in average wages which rose by 3.4% to £27,391.

Jeremy Read, from Grant Thornton's St Albans office who presented the findings, said: "This year's report is particularly noteworthy as it is the final review conducted whilst the UK is still a member of the European Union and so could become a yardstick to determine the impact of Britain's departure on businesses in Hertfordshire.

"It's positive to see businesses performing strongly across the board and is a real testament of their resilience and determination to achieve growth even in an uncertain market with ongoing negotiations with the EU. It's evident from the report that Hertfordshire continues to be a fantastic place for business.

"Whilst a lot could change in the lead up to the March 2019 Brexit deadline, businesses in the region are well placed to overcome any challenges which are thrown up and have every reason to be confident about the future."

Sector performance

The Hertfordshire Limited report also analyses the performance of the top 200 companies by sector.

Impressively, all eight sectors reported an increase in turnover and profitability highlighting a consistent picture across the board. The standout sectors were Technology, which saw the biggest turnover growth of 23% as businesses take advantage of rapid changes in the industry requiring a specialist skill set, and Food, Drink and Leisure which posted a 43% rise in profitability despite the exposure to currency fluctuations and consumer confidence. Elsewhere Business Support Services, the biggest sector in terms of total turnover, remains a key part of Hertfordshire's economy and continues to diversify across a range of services, resulting in turnover, profitability, employment and average wages all increasing.

Jeremy concluded: "Hertfordshire is home to a dynamic, thriving business community and, as we see from this report, companies continue to flourish across a broad range of sectors, demonstrating an overall robustness of the Hertfordshire economy.

"Businesses are however struggling to recruit the necessary skills to sustain their growth as the UK reaches so called 'full employment' which partly explains the increase we have seen in average wages as firms look to attract top talent. Companies should also look to take full advantage of the Apprenticeship Levy as a low cost way of upskilling future talent to ensure they have the workforce they need to succeed in the future."

The findings were presented at Hatfield House on 9 November and this year's event included guest speakers Dr Sally Ann Forsyth, CEO of Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst and Keith Thompson, CEO of Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult.



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