Top 1000 2021: Apple remains Ireland’s largest company

US gadget maker stays on top ahead of Google and Microsoft - but who is Ireland’s new biggest bank?

What a year. A year when Covid-19 pushed Brexit and the housing agenda off the front pages, as the wellbeing of the country took precedence. A year when the pandemic pulled the shutters down on businesses right across the hospitality, tourism and retail sectors; and yet also a year when some companies reached new highs.

While the second half of 2021 and 2022 is now looking brighter, uncertainty is likely to reign over the coming months, with the full fall-out from the Covid-19 pandemic unlikely to be known for some time yet.

Here, we take a look at how the biggest companies have performed, and the trends emerging, over the past year.

The Top Ten

Since the true scale of its operations in Ireland first became known due to European Commission led investigation into its tax affairs here, the US gadget maker Apple has remained firmly at the top of the leader board.


This year is no different, with Apple yet again Ireland’s largest company. Revenues for its Irish based company rose by 5 per cent in the year to September 2020, up to €121.9 billion, dwarfing second

placed Google. The ipad maker has performed strongly throughout the pandemic, helped by a surge in iphone sales, particularly in China. Indeed in the second quarter of its 2021 financial year, it reported a 54 per cent jump in global revenues.

Google has held onto second place, on the back of a 20 per cent increase in revenues, with sales for its Irish division, which employs around 7,000 people, rising to €45.7 billion. As the figures are for the year to end-2019, they don’t reflect the impact of Covid-19; globally however, the search engine giant reported record revenues for 2020 as the lockdown saw more people stuck at home using its services.

In third place it's Microsoft once more. The US software giant been a long time feature in the top hree, and this year is no different. With growth of 23 per cent in the year to June 2020, it stays in bronze position on revenues of €41.5 billion.

Closing in on the top three is another US company, social network behemoth Facebook. It has reached its highest position in this year's survey, on revenues of €34.3 billion. As one of the

Top 1000’s fastest moving companies, it has been a remarkable few years of growth for the company which is set to move to new headquarters at the old AIB bank centre in Dublin’s Ballsbridge.

Last year saw revenues rise by more than a third, bringing growth from 2010 up by a staggering 14,890 per cent.

Also making the top ten this year are companies which have established Ireland as their global headquarters.

While the bulk of their employees may work from other locations, given that they have an Irish headquarters, we include their global revenues in the survey.

The largest of these is sixth placed Medtronic, which employs more than 4,000 people across five sites in Galway, Dublin and Athlone. The medical device maker moved its global headquarters

to Ireland in 2015 after acquiring rival Covidien in a $50 billion corporate inversion. It has fallen back one place in this year’s survey, as its revenues were hit by the impact of Covid-19 on medical procedures.

Medtronic is joined by two former US companies, Johnson Controls and Eaton Corp, in the top ten. Johnson Controls established its Cork headquarters following a merger with Tyco International in 2016, while Eaton Corp relocated from Cleveland, Ohio to Dublin following its acquisition of Cooper Industries in 2013.

The companies are ranked seventh and ninth, respectively, in this year’s survey.

There are two companies of Irish origin on the list: construction giant CRH, and sales, marketing and support services group DCC.

Despite a slight decline in its revenues of about 2 per cent for 2020, on the back of Covid-19 related disruption in both Europe and North America, CRH managed to move up two spots in the table to fifth. Similarly DCC, which also reported a decline in sales, of about 4 per cent, moved up the table this year, from ninth to eighth.

Rounding out the top ten is a new arrival, pharma giant Abbvie. The US biopharmaceutical company acquired Allergan back in May 2020, and we have combined the two companies' entries on an estimated basis for this year's edition.

As a result Abbvie, which previously placed much further down the rankings, has rocketed into the top ten. As an Irish headquartered company, Allergan’s €14 billion or so annual revenues were included for the purposes of this survey.

Going forward however, the publication of post-deal financial statements might offer further insight into Abbvie’s Irish operation.

How did financials fare?

It’s not every year that this survey has a new top commercial bank, but this year the accolade goes to Barclays Bank, which has taken pole position in Ireland for the very first time.

The UK bank, which only operates a corporate, rather than retail, bank in Ireland, has usurped local players like AIB and Bank of Ireland to take the top spot, on assets of some €135 billion. It means that while the bank is behind the Central Bank (€141bn), it is ahead of other commercial players such as Bank of Ireland (on €134bn), and AIB (€110bn).

Brexit is offering opportunities for the Dublin operation, which is now the main operation dealing with Barclays’ customers across the European Union. Its activities comprise corporate and investment banking, consumer cards, private banking and payments.

Other banks which reported strong growth of late include US bank Wells Fargo, which has grown its Irish branch from assets of just €1 billion in 2018 to almost €7 billion in 2019. Similarly, Standard Life International has benefited from a Brexit boost. Its parent decided in 2018 to move billions of euro of policies from UK unit to Standard Life International in Dublin in order to be able to continue to serve customers in the European Union post- Brexit.

Barclays and the advance of other banks comes however as some international banks continue to retreat. After high profile announcements from both KBC Bank and Ulster Bank, the latest departure looks set to be that of Italian bank Unicredit, which first came to Dublin back in 1995. The bank will transfer the assets of the Dublin branch back to its Italian parent as part of a strategy to centralise trading functions and streamline operations.

The table could look significantly different this time next year.

Pandemic bonus

While the shock from the Covid-19 pandemic may have reverberated throughout the business world, some companies have benefited.

Pfizer, manufacturers along with BioNtech of one of the first Covid- 19 vaccines to be authorised around the world, stands to substantially benefit from this.

While the vaccine is not yet manufactured in Ireland, the US pharma giant’s Grange Castle facility in Dublin, has an important role in testing the quality of batches of the vaccine before it is sent out.

Moreover, the company is expected to start producing supplies of its vaccine from this plant in Dublin as part of a new $40 million investment locally. It has been estimated that the vaccine will bring in up to $22 billion in sales this year alone.

Another company which has experienced a boost in Covid-19 related business is County Antrim based diagnostics company Randox. Its products are part of the UK’s Covid-19 testing programme, and it also offers a testing service at Dublin Airport.

Ecommerce giant Amazon, which has a substantial operation here, also got a boost from stores closing around the world and people shopping online instead.

The rush online saw its global 2020 sales surge 38 per cent to $386.1 billion while its profits roughly doubled to $21.3 billion.

In Ireland, the bonus was less obvious; its 2020 sales rose by just 5 per cent, with profits down by 28 per cent to €28.5 million.

The companies we said goodbye to

It has been a tough year for the travel industry, so while the closure of Joe Walsh Tours may not have been unexpected, it was nonetheless unfortunate that one of the stalwarts of Ireland’s travel

sector fell victim to the impact of the pandemic.

The travel agency, which was one of Ireland’s oldest travel agents and tour operators, was known for its pilgrimage trips and package holidays. However, with foreign travel limited for much of 2020/2021 due to the impact of the pandemic, the company could no longer survive, as it cited the

“most restrictive” travel protocols in Europe.

It isn't the only company that doesn't feature in this year's edition of the Top1000. In December,

UK retailer Debenhams, which moved into Ireland back in 2006 when it acquired Roches Stores, went into liquidation, permanently closing its 11 Irish stores. The retailer, which at its peak reported Irish sales of some €180 million, fell foul of the changing buying habits and the shift online.

Other UK retailers which no longer trade in Ireland include Oasis, Monsoon and Carphone Warehouse, which announced in April that it is closing its 80 stores in the Republic of Ireland. The phone seller cited changing consumer trends, as well as a drop in sales, due to the pandemic.

Other companies no longer feature for less economically devastating reasons. Property investment company Green Reit was sold for €1.34 billion to UK-based Henderson Park at end 2019 for example.

Who’s raking in the profits?

Just a few short years ago, posting profits in excess of €1 billion meant a company was in a select group. This year however, 11 companies have made the grade. Not only that, but some companies have made significantly more than €1 billion in their most recent financial year.

Top of the bunch is US medical device maker Boston Scientific, which made a profit of €34 billion in the year to December 2019 for its Irish operation, due to the sale of its intellectual property assets.

It is followed by gadget maker Apple, which reported a staggering gain of €29 billion in the year to September 2020.

Most of the other companies making the most profitable list are the Irish operations of US multinationals, including Medtronic (€3.5bn); Microsoft (€2.3bn) and Google (€1.9bn).

Indeed there is only one Irish founded company with profits in excess of €1 billion, construction giant CRH. However, its profits for 2020 fell considerably short of those reported in 2019, when the building materials maker made some €2.1 billion.

Given the impact of Covid-19, no financial institution makes the list this year. A regular has been the Central Bank, which reported profits of €2 billion in 2019.

To read more on the Top 1000 companies, click here.

However, its profits for 2020 fell back to €665.7 million, the lowest since the onset of the financial crisis.

The Top 1000 magazine and listings is published on Friday, 11th June, with The Irish Times.

Fiona Reddan

Fiona Reddan

Fiona Reddan is a writer specialising in personal finance and is the Home & Design Editor of The Irish Times