The most profitable companies: gambling, technology, and energy leadersThe profitability of the largest companies in Bulgaria continues to improve in 2021.
The largest companies in Bulgaria reached new profitability heights in 2021. The selection of the 50 most profitable companies with a turnover of over BGN 50 million shows an average profit hike from 21% in 2020 to 30% in 2021. This means that from every 1 lev of income in this group of companies, 30 stotinki remained on average as net profit.
Over the past year, the 50 most profitable companies in Bulgaria more than doubled their profits, reaching BGN 4.8 billion.
At the same time, their revenues grew by 54%, i.e. BGN 16 billion. This is a relatively modest sample of large businesses, which only form 12% of GDP, but this is explainable since more young and dynamic companies stand out among profitable companies. A little above the top 50, there are some big players - energy companies and telecoms, which would raise the average significantly.
A well-known leader and a strong contender
The most profitable giant continues to be from the gambling sector - the software provider Amuznet (until recently known as EGT Interactive). The company retains its position with a 71.4% profit margin, despite a slight drop of two points compared to 2020. The leader is in the same group as Euro Games Technologies (the 21st position), known for its Winbet brand.
This time, however, there is a strong contender for the top position - Siteground Hosting owned by Ivo Tsenov and Tenko Nikolov, famous in the Bulgarian IT ecosystem entrepreneurs, investors, and philanthropists. The company is only the Bulgarian division of the global group for hosting services. In 2021, company revenues increased by 55% on an annual basis, to more than BGN 219 million, and profits grew by 78%, to more than BGN 130 million, reaching profitability of 59%.
Established 18 years ago, Siteground is already among the largest independent hosting service providers in the world. It supports more than 2.8 million domains and servers in several data centers in Europe, Asia, America, and Australia. In Bulgaria, the group has centers in Sofia, Plovdiv, and Stara Zagora with more than 500 specialists - developers, IT experts, marketing experts, and others, as well as an office in Madrid. According to unofficial information, the valuation of Siteground is already several billion dollars which gives it a well-deserved unicorn status. The founders have their own foundation, to which in the coming years they plan to allocate nearly BGN 100 million for health, education, and sport initiatives.
Maritime, precious metals, raw materialsThe second place in profitability is taken by Parakhodstvo BMF. Due to the pandemic and closed borders, global maritime trade inevitably suffered, reporting a loss. In 2021, with the recovery of the economy and the shortage of ships, prices rose sharply and this brought the BMF to a surplus of BGN 73.5 million, which corresponds to a 50% profit margin.
Due to the high prices of gold in the last few years (50% growth since the end of 2018, which has increased noticeably in 2022), Dundee Precious Metals Krumovgrad traditionally remained at the forefront. A part of the Canadian Dundee Precious Metals group, the company develops the Ada Tepe gold mine in Bulgaria. Sustainably operating over BGN 350 million in revenue, it shows an impressive profit rate of 48.55% or BGN 186 million. One more subsidiary, Dundee Precious Metals-Chelopech, is in the top six with its 45% profit rate. In total, the group topped BGN 900 million in revenue and more than BGN 412 million in profit in 2021.
The inflationary pressure is also present in the sector of metals and raw materials, which continued its advance in 2022. Thus, two more mining companies make it to the top 10 - Devnya Cement and Ellatzite Med. Their revenue increased significantly, by 92% and 42% respectively, but even more impressive was the explosion in their profitability. At Devnya Cement the profit margin increased nearly 3 times to 46%, and at Ellatzite Med nearly 2 times to 37%. The mining companies are even ahead of the usual contender with high profitability Kozloduy NPP, which in 2021 also makes nearly BGN 900 million net profit.
The jump in the prices of all raw materials is seen in the real sector as well. This includes the chemical sector in Devnya,
Solvay Sodi, and Agropolychim. The latter reported the exceptional year of 2021 with almost doubled revenues of over 730 million leva and tripled profit of more than 140 million leva, proving how investments in alternative raw material sources pay off.
Medical equipment, arms, telecomCOVID investments in new production once again show how an enterprise can stay sustainable if it is able to offer alternative products quickly. Thus, in 2021, the Plovdiv-based manufacturer of electronic medical equipment BTL Industries not only emerged robustly after COVID-19 but also achieved the highest results in 2021. The company's revenues doubled to more than BGN 500 million, and the profit almost tripled to BGN 164 million after starting to produce
and sell masks and respiratory equipment at the highest medical level in 2020. 2021, in turn, boomed from the sales of beauty equipment.
The top 50 companies with the highest margins also have two representatives from the arms sector: the trader Algans and the manufacturer Arsenal. The sector's business is picking up this year following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, so next year's rankings of both the biggest and the leading companies are likely to see more weapons sector entrants.
Traditionally, telecoms and televisions are also among the most profitable. And for several years, large grain producers have also been permanently present. Whether inflationary pressure will remain so favorable to big business in Bulgaria will become clear next year. The consumables are yet to reflect pressures on income and service prices. Certainly, however, it will be many times easier for flexible and innovative businesses to keep these record-breaking results in a sustainable manner. But for many, rising interest rates and forecasts of a global recession could make the coming years fraught.
50 most dynamic companies: energy boom with Axpo in pole positionThe revenues of the fastest-growing large companies jump to an unprecedented 144% in 2021.
Total dominance of energy - this is, in short, the ranking of the most dynamic companies in K100 for the past year. A third of the ranking of the top 50 companies with the fastest-growing revenue, is taken by the energy sector. With booming results, they also raise the average growth of total turnover in the 2021 ranking to an unprecedented 144% on an annual basis. The leader of the ranking is electricity trader Axpo Bulgaria. Among other noticeable sectors are agriculture and trade.
The boom of the big ones
Compared to the turbulent 2020, the most dynamic companies in Bulgaria reported strong results this year with an average revenue growth of 87%. An additional and particularly strong boost to the growth was received from the inflationary trends in the prices of energy carriers that started in the second half of last year and the growing prices of fuels and grain products globally.
Thus, the economic upswing helped large businesses in the country improve their results at an enviable double-digit pace. In 2021, the growth of companies from the top 300 went up by 32%, and from the top 100 by 38%. Moreover, their turnover over the past 12 months had increased by an average of 144.15% which is the highest ever value in the 16-year history of Capital's rankings.
In general, over the years, the picture of the most dynamic companies has in most cases illustrated that it is easier for smaller companies to achieve high growth results because of the lower base from which they usually start. However, the 2021 results are among the rare cases in which this rule did not apply; the representatives of the largest in the local economy became also the fastest-growing. The explanation is simple - the booming results for the last 12 months are mainly due to rising energy prices, and the representatives of this sector are generally concentrated in the upper part of the ranking.
The fastest among the fastest
The number of companies that grew their business at triple-digit and higher rates hit a new peak in 2021 - a total of 35 of the country's corporate leaders reported at least doubling of their revenues on an annual basis. At the same time, only one of them reported three-digit growth (nearly 135%, to BGN 222 million) from a zero base, i.e. after only a year of work on the local market. This is the company Cetin Bulgaria, created in 2020, in which the new Czech owner of Telenor (now Yettel) separated the network infrastructure of the telecom.
The top ten in energy
The vast majority of the fastest-growing companies have been on the local market for a long time, with almost half of them active in the energy sector - 16 of the 35 companies with three-digit turnover growth. The top 10 is occupied by eight energy representatives, including the three leaders: Expo Bulgaria, Met Energy Trading Bulgaria, and EVN Trading South Eastern Europe. The only two "outsiders" in the top 10 are wholesalers VIEE Bulgaria and Balkan Polymers of fuels and polymers respectively.
The leader of the ranking, Axpo Bulgaria, is part of the leading Swiss producer of renewable energy and a global energy trader, Axpo Group. Founded in 2006 under the name EGL Bulgaria, its activity was initially related to commercial activities in the country with an emphasis on electric energy, and emerging gas markets in South-Eastern Europe. Since 2011, an operational center has been based in Sofia. Axpo Bulgaria is the only company in this year's ranking that is growing its business at four-digit rates - in 2021 its revenues jumped by 1291% to BGN 987.6 million, which gives it 21st place in the K100 ranking, right after the top twenty with revenues topping BGN 1 billion.
The second best company also has a Swiss owner - MET Energy Trading Bulgaria. Registered in 2017, the subsidiary of
the Swiss MET Group has been developing gas business in Bulgaria, RES projects, and electricity trading in recent years. In 2021, the company bought a second wind farm in the country, and the group's ambitions are to have 500 MW of renewable sources in Central and Eastern Europe by 2023, with Bulgaria among the main target destinations. For the past year, the local company's turnover grew by 592% to BGN 730 million and comes mainly from trading in natural gas and electricity. Then comes electricity trader EVN Trading South East Europe, which is part of the Austrian EVN group. In 2021, its revenues increased by 287%, to BGN 702 million.
Agriculture, Trade, and Machinery
The rising prices of grains on international exchanges boost the results of agricultural companies, which are the second largest group in this year's ranking of the most dynamic - a total of eight representatives of the sector enter the top 50. The strongest growth among them was reported by ADM Bulgaria Trading, with its revenue jumping by 121.2%, to BGN 270.5 million. The grain trader is a part of the American group Daniels Midland Company (ADM), which also owns the Razgrad plant for processing corn Amylum.
Agriculture-related fertilizer dealers also reported a strong year. The top 50 include the distributor of mineral fertilizers Inakem Solutions and the trader of fertilizers, seeds, and plant protection products Eurochem Agro Bulgaria.
The trade sector has a total of seven representatives from the ranking. It includes the distributor of consumables and raw materials for industrial knitting machines Svepol, the fuel trader Tibiel, as well as the Peugeot importer Sofia France Auto, which from 2020 is also responsible for the distribution of Opel in the country.
Traditionally, the ranking of the fastest growing companies also includes a group of industrial enterprises, which in recent years has been expanding production in the country. This year, among the four representatives of the machinery and equipment sector, is the Smolyan-based cable and wire manufacturer Gamakabel. The top 50 also includes Elkabel from Burgas, one of the oldest cable and wire factories in the country, privatized in 1995, as well as the subsidiary of the German Leoni - Leoni Bulgaria, which manufactures electrical systems and wiring for cars in Pleven. The group also owns the Plovdiv medical equipment manufacturer BTL Industries, which keeps its place in the ranking.
The largest employers: More expensive but with the same number of employees
In 2021, almost 235,000 people worked for the top 100 companies with the largest number of employees from the top 500 companies by revenue. Staff shortages, rising wages, falling unemployment. This was the picture of the labor market in 2021. The start of the economic recovery post-COVID and the desire of many people to change their jobs forced companies to massively increase remuneration.
Thus, in December 2021, according to National Statistical Institute (NSI) data, the average gross salary in the country increased by over 14% compared to 2020, to BGN 1,680. Unemployment fell to 5.5% compared to 7.4%, according to the Employment Agency, and nominally the number of those registered as unemployed reached just over 181,000 people, or almost 5,000 less compared to the pre-crisis 2019 when the labor market was booming.
These trends were carried over into 2022, despite the beginning of the war in Ukraine. The Employment Agency reported the lowest unemployment rate ever in May - 4.5%. NSI, which measures this indicator using a different methodology, reported a 4.9% unemployment rate for the first quarter of 2022. The number of people employed in the economy for the same period increased by 39,600. The data by sector, however, is more complicated. The comparison data for the first three months of 2021 shows that while the mining and processing industries were laying off people, trade, services, and the IT industry were hiring.
Forecasts for the second half of 2022 are more modest - the war in Ukraine has led to disrupted supply chains and the highest level of prices of energy sources. This, combined with the policy of low-interest rates of the leading central banks in the USA and Europe, led to accelerated growth of inflation globally and locally. Along with these trends, a new economic crisis is now expected more than ever. Even if the predictions do come true, however, the labor market will not feel the change immediately.
Biggest cutsThe recovery of the economy is visible, but only slightly, and the number of employees on average in the companies stays the same. Some sectors are automating and freeing up people, while others are cautious about expanding their teams.
Some of the companies in the top 100 have also given a forecast for their number of employees in 2022. With the exception of the state railway company BDZ, the construction company ISA 2000, and one or two other companies from the industry, all the others planned to hire new people. The car carrier Discordia, for example, has indicated that they will increase their staff by almost 500 people. The booming IT sector represented by Musala Soft is set to grow its team by more than 320 this year. The current statistics data is also optimistic - the industry is growing, and the business climate is also improving. A large part of the companies in the top 100 are from export-oriented sectors, and at least for now exports are also growing steadily (to some extent due to inflation) and surpassing the levels of the pre-crisis 2019.
Due to the drop in orders during the pandemic, the largest arms manufacturers and dealers continued to lay off people in 2021. The biggest shortage (with over 1000 laid off) comes from the Arsenal plant in Kazanlak, which is also one of the top industrial employers in the country. This year, the epidemic subsided, and the war in Ukraine began, but as of April 2022, the sector has not yet hired new people. The biggest layoffs in the sector are in the private company Arkus - over a third of the staff.
The textile sector has also faced problems due to the COVID crisis, impacting Bulgarian manufacturers and sewing companies. In 2021, the representatives of the sector in the top 100 let go of almost 9% of their employees, to 7,950 people. The largest number comes from the textile enterprise Pirin tex, which laid off more than 300 people.
The same goes for the companies producing cables for the automotive industry as sub-suppliers. Relying on cheap labor, some of these companies began to lay off staff and tried to close down businesses as income rose. There is one exception - Leoni from Pleven, which doubled its staff in 2021. The group is the largest producer of electrical systems and
wiring for cars in Europe and fourth in the world.
Traditionally, many state or municipal companies are also present in the ranking. Some of them, like in the last few years, continue job cuts, like the companies from the BDZ (Bulgarian railways) group. However, others such as Bulgarian Post, have increased the number of their staff.
At first glance, one of the largest security companies in Bulgaria - VIP Security is also laying off many staff. However, the reason for the decreased numbers is the transfer of part of the business to another company that offers security services
for the home, and the transfer of its employees accordingly.
And who is hiring?
In 2020, the industrial sector with its 54,000 employees in the top 100 companies, recorded a net increase in employment of almost 1%. Some of the production companies, however, laid off their staff, while others hired, and thus the net number of employed is plus 330 people.
Services firms (such as customer call centers, support, accounting, etc.) also continued to increase their staff last year. The total number of jobs created by the top 100 companies is more than 20,000, with a net increase of almost 980 people in one year. The sector hired people in 2020 as well.
The retail sector also did not cut their staff even during the COVID crisis, with many continuing to expand their sites and hire more people in 2020. The trend continued in 2021, as compared to 2020, the top 100 companies increased the numbers of employees by a total of 2,500 people, or by almost 10%, creating a total of over 28,000 jobs. These are traditionally large grocery chains, like Technopolis, the home and cosmetics chains DM, Lily drugstore, and Praktiker.
In short - when the economy grows, as was the case in 2021, the labor market feels it too, and the top 100 are no exception. This is likely to remain so until the end of 2022. The shortage of specialists for some sectors, however, is a warning of the upcoming global economic crisis which will make companies much more careful - both in staffing and in their pay policies.