Slide in profits at top private companies

Ian Knott, advisory director at Grant Thornton. Picture: contributed
Ian Knott, advisory director at Grant Thornton. Picture: contributed
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There was a drop in profits and staff numbers among the top Scottish private firms last year, but the beleaguered energy sector showed welcome evidence of recovery, according to data published today.

Business and financial adviser Grant Thornton, which has offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, said in its Scotland Ltd report that the combined profits of Scotland’s top 100 privately owned limited companies fell to £16.6 billion from £20.8bn in the previous year. Furthermore, the firms experienced a drop in workers, to 110,632 from 116,284.

Grant Thornton said both the food and drink and property and construction sectors face challenges due to the uncertain economic outlook.

However, it also reported that while energy faced some of its greatest difficulties in 2016, with the downturn in oil and gas taking the highest toll on Aberdeen and the North-east, it showed signs of “resilience and commitment to sustainable, long-term growth”.

A total of nine firms from the sector made the top 100, up from seven in 2015, and turnover grew to £1.4bn from £1.2bn.

Ian Knott, advisory director for Grant Thornton in Aberdeen, said that despite hurdles facing the industry, there are “reasons to be optimistic”, with the oil price drop having prompted greater efficiencies.

He added: “The shorter-term prospects for Scotland’s energy sector remain challenging but, in the longer term, with greater collaboration and a focus on maintaining a ­sustainable cost base, it can continue to play a major role in the success of our national economy.”