James Thomson Editor

James Thomson is the editor of BRW. Previously he was editor and publisher of SmartCompany and a senior editor at Business Spectator. He writes regularly on Australia's wealthiest entrepreneurs and has deep expertise in small business and the mid market.

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Best of the biggest: inside the Top 1000

Published 30 January 2013 21:58, Updated 01 February 2013 15:02

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Best of the biggest: inside the Top 1000

They’re big, they’re powerful and they dominate their markets. Just don’t call the companies on BRW’s Top 1000 list slow.

To mark the release of the 2013 Top 1000, compiled by leading research firm IBISWorld, BRW has created a special Best of the Biggest that recognises the most innovative and entrepreneurial firms in 10 categories, including biggest profit, most improved revenue, best CEO and best super fund.

Best of the biggest

Best chief executive: Richard Goyder
Biggest profit: BHP Billiton
Fastest growing revenue: Evolution Mining
Most improved profit: Chevron Australia
Most improved revenue: Rio Tinto
Fastest growing profit: Skilled Group
Best new entrant: Ausfuel
Best profit margin: VicSuper
Biggest super fund: Australian Super
Best return on assets: BOC Australia

The message from these awards is that it’s not just smaller firms that can be nimble – big businesses that leverage the growth sectors and use their size and scale can leap ahead.

Overall, the Top 1000 provides an accurate reflection of the economic conditions of the past 12 months, with total revenue rising by 4.8 per cent to $1902 billion and total profit falling to $120.9 billion this year from $157.4 billion in 2012.

Asher Tan, senior economic research analyst at IBISWorld, says the list underlines the conservative mindset many of the biggest companies have adopted, cutting costs and debt and delaying investment.

This is highlighted by the fact that while shareholder funds/equity were up 18.7 per cent, total assets up were up 8.3 per cent.

“Companies are actively deleveraging, which is a sign of lack of investment and growth opportunities,” he says.

Looking deeper at the results for specific industries, it becomes clear that there are a handful of sectors doing the heavy lifting.

The finance and investment sector, which posted the largest sectoral revenue, saw turnover rise 6.4 per cent to $25.4 billion.

In the next biggest sector, mining, revenue grew 7.3 per cent to just over $24 billion. However, the growth rate was much lower than the incredible 31.5 per cent of 2012, when the sector cashed in on high commodity prices.

The agribusiness sector posted the biggest revenue gain, with turnover more than doubling to $8.1 billion, while the laggard was the textile and clothing sector, where revenue dipped a further 15.7 per cent to just $1.7 billion.

Perhaps the sector that best underlines the swings and roundabouts in the past 12 months is that the literally drives the economy – transport. While revenue rose 8.6 per cent to $80.1 billion, a profit of $5.6 billion last year turned into a loss of $904.3 billion.

A total of 79 companies join the top 1000, slightly down from 85 last year, while 721 posted higher revenue.