The Irish Times Company of the Year: the four finalists

Stripe, Dalata, Glanbia and Amarin shortlisted on back of standout years

Stripe founders Patrick and John Collison. The company’s valuation recently rose to €19.9 billion

Stripe founders Patrick and John Collison. The company’s valuation recently rose to €19.9 billion

 

In a troublesome geo-political environment, business was at times a struggle in the past 12 months. But the cream eventually rises to the top and our four shortlisted companies for the company of the year award were most certainly among the winners.

Stripe

Stripe’s aggressive fundraising provided it with yet another positive year, putting in one of our four top spots.

The online payments company announced yet another funding round at the beginning of 2019, this time for $100 million (€89 million), in addition to the appointment of a tech titan to the company board.

The latest investment from Tiger Global came just four months after it secured $245 million (€217 million) in a round led by the same company.

The online payments company also announced that Diane Greene, who previously co-founded and ran VMware, and who was until recently chief executive of Google Cloud, was to join what is already a strong board.

For Stripe, there appears to be no heights to which it can’t climb and the company founded by Limerick brothers John and Patrick Collison now comes with a valuation of $22.5 billion (€19.9 billion).

The rapidly growing valuation for the company has seen the Collison brothers more than double their financial net worth to $2.3 billion (€2 billion) each in the past year.

There’s no doubt that the company has worked hard to achieve that lofty valuation. In the next few months it intends to add a half-dozen countries to the 23 where its service is widely available.

In particular, its about to enter smaller European markets like Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

Dalata’s hotel portfolio is now worth about €1.2 billion.
Dalata’s hotel portfolio is now worth about €1.2 billion.

Dalata

Perhaps it was luck, but more likely it was good strategy that Dalata has managed to be in the position it is now in. Founded in 2007 before going public in 2014, Dalata has unquestionably put itself in a strong place to benefit from the State’s economic recovery and pick up assets that position it for growth.

And this year saw that strategy working nicely with the company announcing 13 per cent growth of its profit before tax to €87.3 million for 2018 added to revenue growth of 11.8 per cent to €393.7 million.

Yet again beating expectations, the Republic’s largest hotel group managed to outperform the Dublin market and is ploughing on with its UK growth.

Dalata now has a pipeline of more than 2,190 rooms which it plans to deliver between now and 2021. The owner of the Clayton and Maldron brands now holds assets worth about €1.2 billion.

And while its existing portfolio was performing just fine, it opened a new Clayton hotel during the year and four new Maldron hotels while also completing four hotel extensions.

To top that all off, it started paying a dividend to shareholders for the first time last year and this year said about 25 per cent of its profit after tax will go on dividend payments.

Not bad for a company that went public just five years ago.

Glanbia acquired SlimFast for €310 million during the year. Photograph: Drew Nash/Times-News/magicvalley.com
Glanbia acquired SlimFast for €310 million during the year. Photograph: Drew Nash/Times-News/magicvalley.com

Glanbia

So positively were Glanbia’s results for 2018 received in February, its shares rose 13 per cent on the day to levels last seen almost two years ago.

Since the successful spin-off in 2017 of its Irish dairy and agribusiness operation into a joint venture, Glanbia has performed exceptionally well under the stewardship of Siobhán Talbot, the first winner of The Irish Times Business Person of the Year award.

Its position in our top four companies this year comes after a solid 2018 in which earnings per share rose 9 per cent to 91.1c while earnings rose 5.2 per cent to €284.9 million.

Additionally, it announced at the beginning of this year an $89 million deal in the United States for a non-dairy ingredient solutions business to complement its nutritional business there.

While it has been performing well in the nutrition space for some time, its move into the multi-billion dollar weight management sector in November appeared to be a good move.

Glanbia acquired an established brand in the form of SlimFast for $350 million (€310 million). At the time, Davy analysts Cathal Kenny and Roland French said the deal was the company’s most significant since its 2008 purchase of Optimum Nutrition, the world’s best selling whey protein brand. If they can match that success, perhaps they’ll trouble next year’s list too.

Amarin’s share price rose 260 per cent in 2018. Photograph: iStock
Amarin’s share price rose 260 per cent in 2018. Photograph: iStock

Amarin

As share price charts go, Amarin’s was a very attractive one in 2018, given the stock’s 260 per cent rise.

While it was a long time coming, the Irish-American pharma group announced results from a key clinical trial for its cholesterol drug that were far better than expected.

The highly concentrated fish oil drug, Vascepa, was found to be considerably more effective at averting cardiac issues and death in patients with high cholesterol who are already taking statins.

Analysts are bullish that this can become a blockbuster therapy, not least because it is seen as very affordable relative to many heart drugs.

Since the initial topline results of the trial were published in September, sales of Vascepa have already risen considerably and the company has said it intends to apply to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to expand its marketing of the drug.

Were it to be successful, the prospects for Amarin would be notable. And while the US is clearly the primary commercial focus, Vascepa is undergoing trials in China, and Amarin has done deals in the Middle East and Canada. It says it will be pursuing someone to promote the drug in Europe.