The annual bellwether for corporate Yorkshire revealed an 85 per cent rise in earnings after tax at the region’s 200 mid-market businesses.
BDO LLP, the accountancy and business advisory firm, said the improvement was due to operational effectiveness and commercial management.
“Lean is the buzzword among our clients,” said Mark Langford, a partner at BDO Leeds.
The outstanding profit performance was good news for mid-market shareholders, because it contributed to a 25 per cent increase in dividends to £600m over the period.
It also fed through to the balance sheet, which might bode less well for future growth prospects, according to BDO. Analysis of the top 250 companies, which includes the mid-market and the 50 largest firms, shows they are sitting on £7.2bn in cash reserves, an increase of 51 per cent on the previous year.
Mr Langford said: “This is a sign of strength, but it is also a sign of uncertainty. There is lots of ‘dry powder’ money out there, in private equity funds, institutions and banks, waiting to be invested. We believe that uncertainty in the national and international landscape is delaying decisions in boardrooms.”
Business investment is seen as an important mechanism for increasing productivity and ensuring long-term prosperity. Mr Langford pointed to the 15 per cent fall in mergers and acquisitions activity over the last year as another sign of the cautious outlook. The volume of deals fell to 467 from 547, according to the report. The cautious outlook is also reflected in overall revenue figures, which remain broadly flat at £107bn for the top-250 list.
“Companies aren’t going for growth for the sake it,” added Mr Langford. “They have concentrated on operations instead. They are being as lean as possible. They are in a holding pattern.”
International growth is the standout growth story; overseas turnover increased by 18 per cent to £10.5bn among the 250 companies.
The weak pound has helped make British goods and services more competitive abroad.
It has also supported the many Yorkshire 250 constituents with overseas operations when they exchange foreign currencies. Manufacturing is the standout growth sector, helped by the weak pound which has driven up revenue and profit.
Retail was surprisingly robust with more sector winners than losers, which BDO attributed to a focus on value and brand.
The leisure sector also enjoyed growth, boosted in a large part by Hull City’s year in the Premier League. Households had some good cheer as average salaries rose by approximately 5 per cent as wage inflation kicked in after some fallow years.
Mr Langford said: “The Yorkshire Report 2018 shows the enduring strength and importance of the region’s mid-market.”
To read the report, visit www.bdo.co.uk/en-gb/the-yorkshire-report-2018