ESSEX’S leading companies have remained strong in the face of persistently harsh trading conditions across the UK and worldwide, according to a report published today.

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Details of the annual Essex Ltd survey of how the 100 largest companies based in the county have performed over the past year, produced by accountants and business advisers Grant Thornton and Essex law firm Birkett Long, will be revealed at a breakfast seminar for business leaders being held at the Stock Brook Country Club near Billericay,

Essex Ltd, which was launched for the first time last year, provides an in-depth financial analysis of the county’s 100 largest companies which are both owned and managed within Essex.

The 2012 report showed Essex Ltd’s constituent members managed to hold on to and slightly increase gains made in the previous year on sales and operating profits while employment grew significantly, indicating that businesses are preparing for improved trading conditions.

The study was based on the latest company accounts available and so relates mainly to a period in which the UK was still in recession, with few signs of growth, amid on-going economic turmoil at home and abroad.

Annual turnover among the top 100 companies increased by 2.4% from £7.69billion to £7.87bn, while operating profit grew by 0.5% from £287million to £289m. Essex Ltd also increased its combined workforce by 9%, from 51,413 employees to 56,112.

The Essex Ltd report also includes a breakdown of the financial data by sector. Retail and Wholesale Distribution remained the largest sector by turnover, contributing 31% of Essex Ltd total sales. Manufacturing saw the largest increase in sales, 29.5%, a substantial achievement considering the sector had near zero growth the year before.

Transport and Property & Construction also noticeably grew turnover by 15.7% and 14.6% respectively. However Motor Retail saw a fall in sales of 23% and Services a drop of 16%.

James Brown of Grant Thornton said: “Essex Ltd has continued to respond well to difficult trading conditions and it is reassuring that the dramatic improvement in results seen last year has been consolidated in this year’s performance.

“There are encouraging indications that Essex Ltd is working hard to retain sales and profitability while also preparing for improved trading conditions.”

Tracey Dickens, head of commercial and corporate finance at Birkett Long, added: “The results of this year’s survey reflect the positive stories we are hearing from businesses across the county.

“Essex Ltd’s annual turnover grew by 2.4% which is more than twice as much as the UK’s latest GDP growth, demonstrating the strength of our county’s economy and that Essex businesses will be well placed to make the most of growth opportunities as they arise.”

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