Countdown has begun for the annual North East Top 200

The countdown has begun to publication day for the latest annual North East Top 200

The Top 200, 2014
The Top 200, 2014

The countdown has begun to publication day for the latest annual North East Top 200.

A table of compelling business reading with accompanying comment, it’s an invaluable badge of achievement also for the firms whose performances in turnover will have gained them entry to the list. Compilation is under way, and all will be revealed exclusively in The Journal on October 22, following an awards presentation breakfast on October 21.

The Top 200, run by The Journal and The Gazette on Teesside – and compiled and verified by their partners Newcastle University Business School and PwC in the North East – showcases the latest successes of North East industry, commerce and services, and gives opportunity to celebrate the enterprise of our region.

Category sponsors this year include Gentoo, the Sunderland-based social housing and regeneration group, Greggs bakery chain and Sintons law firm. Peter Walls, chief executive of Gentoo, says: “We feel it’s important to recognise the hard work and commitment of organisations that help make the North East a great place to live and work in.

“We all have an opportunity to make a huge difference to the business community and the society of which we are all a part, and we’re especially proud to sponsor the Number One Company of the Year category in this year’s Top 200 awards.”

As ever, many intriguing questions will be answered. Has there, for a start, been a shake-up among the current top five – Nissan (currently three times winner in a row), DB Arriva, Go-Ahead Group, Sage Group and Vertu Motors? Or has some dark horse broken into that distinguished company?

With recovery under way in manufacturing and engineering, we may expect numerous companies in those activities to show up well. The offshore oil, gas and renewables sector continues to prosper too. Wellstream International on the Tyne was last year’s biggest leaper up the table, jumping 86 places to 32nd. It now provides an enigma.

GE Oil & Gas in its offshore growth has acquired Wellstream, and it will have to be ascertained whether Wellstream or GE Oil & Gas will meet the conditions set out for inclusion in the table this time. Either way, though, the region has a winner there, since a recent £15m investment in the Newcastle operation is increasing capability for deep-water pipeline manufacture and creating 152 more jobs.

Other big climbers last year included the neighbouring Offshore Group, which rose 74 places to 47th.

And it has since won a 13-month, multi-million-pound contract from Kvaerner to provide equipment for a Shell-operated gas plant project onshore in Norway.

Automotives and process chemicals should also throw up their stars. In the automotives, plastics manufacturer Nifco at Eaglescliffe should further advance, having just announced turnover up almost £10m from the £40.9m that shot it 50 places up to 147th last year. If others above it failed to up their game this year – and no newcomers intervened – managing director Mike Matthews would be taking Nifco up to 120th now on £49.8m.


Another notable stalker this year and beyond will be Quorn, whose meat-free food product of that name is being eaten by more meat eaters than vegetarians for the first time. Under chief executive Kevin Brennan, it’s seeing unprecedented 13.5% growth in sales. The Stokesley firm’s building of a third fermenter at Billingham will perpetuate the good news.

It will be fascinating to study the clusters of companies about three-quarters down table whose placings are separated by slenderest of margins. At 134 and 135, for example, only £0.2m separates Grainger Games and WM Strike. Has the Newcastle firm dispersed enough video games this year to stay in front of the Stokesley garden centre group, or have greenfingered shoppers reversed the order?

Just below at 137 and 138, only £0.3m had Refresco above Dynea UK Ltd. So will the Durham firm have sold enough bottles to stay ahead of the Newton Aycliffe adhesive producer this time?

At 139 and 140 only £0.2m has been keeping Convergys CMG’s management services in Newcastle ahead of multi-millionaire Steve Gibson’s Interbulk at Thornaby. Could the tanker group pull away here? Or might TSG, the Newcastle-based IT group, only £0.1m beneath Interbulk, shoot above both?

Many companies have long featured and, through ongoing strength, flair and ingenuity, will probably continue to do so for many years. But there are always up-and-coming firms whose sudden and deserved appearance on turnover always adds lustre to the line-up, as it does to the North East economy in general. If you have a company you think merits consideration, you should file latest annual results to Companies House straight away if you haven’t yet done so.

Some businesses in the North East, even though outstanding, may not be listed, either because their finances are dealt with outside the region, or because their turnovers are below the cut-off point. That in no way belittles their progress though.

The presentation breakfast on October 21 will feature a question-and-answer discussion on the impact from the result of the Scottish referendum.

The Biscuit Factory in Newcastle’s striking Ouseburn Valley, will be hosting this year’s breakfast.

Owner Ramy Zack said: “There are exciting times ahead. My vision has always been to foster and support creative diversity in Newcastle’s Ouseburn Valley area. This new conference and banqueting centre will bolster the area’s standing as the hub of Newcastle’s cultural quarter and add considerably to the local economy.

“Conference visitors can expect to spend productive time in an inspiring, creative zone and be treated in style and comfort, synonymous with The Biscuit Factory’s reputation for service, quality and value.”

The Top 200 always gives a good broad picture of the North East economy as a whole. Will this year’s top turnover, for example, better Nissan’s £5bn last year? At the other end, will the 200th placed entrant show turnover higher than the £30.6m that Chilton’s Norchem registered there last year?

If the answer in both cases is yes, the North East economy is moving in the right direction.

Top 200 breakfast

The Top 200 awards breakfast will be at The Stadium of Light, Sunderland, SR5 1SU on Tuesday, October 21, from 7.30am-10.30am.

To reserve tables or tickets at the business awards breakfast where Top 200 presentations will be made - or for any further information - contact Abbi Aitken, events manager, on telephone 0191 201 6166 or email

Tables of 10 are available at £300 plus VAT and individual tickets are available at £35 each plus VAT.

The package includes the awards presentations, refreshments, full English breakfast, networking and Question and Answer panel to discuss the impact of the result of the Scottish referendum.



David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer