2017 was a difficult year for UK business; political uncertainty and the fallout from the Brexit vote meant business confidence being undermined and a decrease in consumer spending for the majority of the year.
However, it wasn't all bad; the vast majority of industries still saw some overall growth; the highest of which was in the education and transport and storage sectors, increasing by 15.4% and 17.7% respectively. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) noted that business growth actually picked up rapidly during the final few months of the year, giving weight to the theory that the economy is getting back on track as we head further into 2018.
While SMEs made an impressive £1.9 trillion combined by the end of the year, according to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, the country's biggest companies are still bringing in the eye-watering sums of money. Data collated by business intelligence provider Global Database shows the 20 highest earning companies operating within the UK in 2017, and there are plenty of surprises. Alongside the household names you'd expect to feature; the likes of Shell, Tesco and HSBC for example, there are those that are much less obvious. An airline in fifth place that you may never even have heard of, and a telecommunications company that made over £30 billion, despite being just two years old - proof that age isn't always the best indicator of success.
So, without further ado let's take a look at the highest earning companies operating in the UK in 2017...
Oil and gas giant Royal Dutch Shell saw over £187 billion in turnover during 2017. The company also acquired First Utility at the end of the year, meaning they're now set to supply energy to around 825,000 UK households from the end of February onwards. While the cost of the deal was undisclosed, experts suggest it probably fell in the region of £200-£300 million. Last year also saw the company branch out into new niches, including the purchase of two electric car infrastructure companies.
As one of the world's seven oil and gas 'supermajors' it's no surprise that BP features so highly on the list. The company, headquartered in London, has certainly had its share of bad luck in recent times; the 2010 oil rig explosion cost them deeply in both finances and reputation. It's only now, almost a decade later that the company is getting fully back on track - 2017 saw a turnover of £141 billion.
The financial services company pulled in £78 billion in 2017. The company, headquartered in London, is potentially set to increase turnover within the next few years by capitalising on its growth in the US insurance market.
The British financial services company, founded in 1848, revealed its plans last year to combine its UK and European businesses in a bid to cut costs. In the meantime, the company turned over £72 billion in 2017.
The banking giant, whose main offices are in London's Canary Wharf, saw a turnover of £60 billion in 2017. The company is set to review its global media planning and buying account this year, estimated to be worth around £286 million, so it will be interesting to see how any changes to its marketing efforts affect its figures in due course.
The supermarket giant, set to celebrate its centenary this year, turned over £56 billion in 2017 - not bad for a retail outlet that started life as a few market stalls.
The insurance provider enjoyed a turnover of £55 billion in 2017. The company remains the largest investment manager of UK pension fund assets, and is also amongst the largest providers of auto-enrolled pensions in the UK, currently having over 2.2 million clients.
The British company is the largest insurance provider in the UK, and saw a turnover of over £55 billion in 2017. They've come under fire from customers recently for problems with their Aviva for Advisers platform - not a great way to start the new year.
Formerly known as CGU International Insurance, the Aviva Group Holdings subsidiary provides life and general insurance services to customers worldwide. With a growing market in the US, the company saw turnover of £51 billion during the past year.
The company, which also owns Halifax and HBOS, is the UK's largest retail banking group. It saw revenue of £48 billion in 2017, up from £39.6 billion on the previous year.
The company, headquartered in London and with operations in Kazakhstan and Hong Kong, has only been in business for seven years, making 2017's £48 billion turnover all the more impressive.
The subsidiary of the The Shell Petroleum Company Limited sells and transports oil, gas, power and chemicals globally. 2017 saw the oil and gas company turn over £46.2 billion.
The consumer goods group may have made it to the halfway point in the list, but 2017 was far from ideal. Hurricanes and earthquakes across America, and a disappointing summer weather-wise in Europe, coupled with increasing competition from smaller rivals, saw the company's sales fall short. Revenue in 2017 was £44.4 billion, compared to around £46 billion the previous year.
While growth in the UK market flatlined for the British telecoms company, strong performance in European markets, particularly Spain, Germany, and Italy, saw targets met. 2017 saw the company gain £42.6 billion in revenue.
The subsidiary of Tesco plc currently has around 2,650 stores across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The retailer enjoyed turnover of £40.1 billion last year.
16. Glencore Energy
Glencore Energy UK Ltd is a subsidiary of Glencore UK Ltd., selling oil and gas. The company, headquartered in London, turned over £39.6 billion in 2016.
The 16-year-old company, which deals in waste removal and freight transport, walked away from the 2017 financial year with a very respectable turnover of £38 billion.
A subsidiary of Prudential plc, the company sells life insurance and workplace pensions. Based in London, the international financial services company turned over £32.5 billion last year.
19. Sse PLC
Despite reporting a substantial fall in profits in the months leading up to September last year, the second biggest UK energy supplier managed to top 2016's revenue, turning over £29 billion this year, up from £28.7 billion the previous year. In November last year the company announced plans to merge with Npower's retail business to create a new energy company, though the process isn't likely to be completed until the end of 2018 at the earliest.
20. BHP Billiton PLC
The Anglo-Australian mining and metals giant achieved a healthy turnover of £28.8 billion in 2016. While its petroleum output is expected to decline in 2018, iron and copper production remain strong and are expected to see more growth.
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