Some of this country's biggest revenue generators are foreign-owned companies you may never have heard of.

The Herald's investigation into the size of the multinational sector revealed not only the surprisingly low income tax bills for some highly profitable companies, but also a number of firms whose significant revenues are not matched by their public profiles.

The dataset of 103 multinational companies operating in New Zealand - who among them made more than $67 billion in annual sales here - catalogued not just high-profile firms like banks and internet giants.

A surprisingly large slice of the economy - total annual revenues run into the billions - is run by firms who operate largely under the public's radar, mostly because of their focus on the wholesale market, exporting, or as a backroom provider of services and infrastructure.

Here are the five largest foreign-owned firms you've probably never heard of:

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Methanex New Zealand

Domestic Revenue:

$1.5 billion

Profit Before Income Tax: $105.2 million

Income Tax Expense: $10.1 million

Methanol producer Methanex is one of the largest energy firms operating in Taranaki. While headquartered in Vancouver, Canada - and with production facilities scattered worldwide in Chile, Egypt, the United States and Trinidad and Tobago - its New Zealand presence is the firm's most productive.

The company's three methanol plants in Taranaki, including the giant Motunui facility constructed as part of Think Big, produces almost a third of the company's total worldwide production.

Listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, Methanex claims to operate the world's largest fleet of methanol ocean tankers, and reported annual revenue of $4.7 billion and profit before tax of nearly $1 billion.

According to the company's annual reports, Methanex New Zealand produces 2.4 million tonnes of methanol annually - 95 per cent of which is exported to Asia.

The company says it directly employs around 250 people in New Zealand - mostly in Taranaki, but with a commercial presence in Auckland - with contractors adding to this number.

Research commissioned from BERL in 2013 by the company concluded its operations contributed $440 million annually to Taranaki's economy, with an additional $210 million to the national accounts.

Bidvest New Zealand

Domestic Revenue:

$824.3 million

Profit Before Income Tax: $35.1 million

Income Tax Expense: $10.2 million

The firm's 300 refrigerated trucks are probably the most visible part of Bidvest New Zealand's operations, but its public face is otherwise limited by its focus on the wholesale - rather than the retail - food services market.

Its focus in New Zealand is in stark contrast to its conglomerate status at home in South Africa, where it is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange with divisions including financial services, motor vehicle sales and office supplies and furniture. The company's earnings are split almost in half its South African operations and its more focused international food service operations.

According to its annual report, globally Bidvest employs 143,828 people and hauls in $17.6 billion in annual revenue, recording profit before taxes of $665 million.

While only a fraction of its total business, the firms' New Zealand presence is still significant, with the company employing 1600 people across 30 locations nationwide and paying $86 million a year in wages and salaries.

The notes to the company's New Zealand subsidiary record dividend payments to its parent during the year to June 2015 of $12.1 million.

Sime Darby Motor Group (NZ)

Domestic Revenue:

$656.6 million

Profit Before Income Tax: $21.9 million

Income Tax Expenses: $6.3 million

Malaysia isn't the first nation to come to mind when thinking of automotive giants, but Sime Darby Berhad - listed on the Bursa Malaysia Securities Board - is one of New Zealand's largest motor-vehicle traders.

The company first entered the New Zealand market in 1999 after taking over Continental Car Services, and has steadily built up its presence, buying dealerships, distributors and trucking operations.

It claims to sell more than 10,000 vehicles annually in New Zealand and employ 800 people around the country. Today Sime Darby handles the sale in New Zealand of Citroen and Peugeot passenger cars, and Mack, Hino and Volvo trucks.

Globally, the company employs 120,000 people in more than 20 countries and has branches beyond motor sales including plantations, healthcare, energy and utilities.

According to its most recent annual report the group had annual sales of $15.8 billion and net profit before taxes of $1.1 billion.

Transpower is a major client of Australian firm Broadspectrum. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Transpower is a major client of Australian firm Broadspectrum. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Broadspectrum (New Zealand)

Domestic Revenue:

$545.5 million

Profit Before Income Tax: -$22.8 million

Income Tax Expense: -$10.2 million

Formerly known as Transfield Services, Broadspectrum is an Australian-owned infrastructure services company whose clients include operators of major roading, telecommunications and electricity networks.

The firm employs around 2500 people in New Zealand and major clients include Transpower, which is covered by a $318 million maintenance contract from 2012 until 2018, and Auckland Transport, which agreed to pay $67 million to maintain the Northwest urban road corridor 2014-18.

The parent company, listed on the ASX, has its business concentrated in Australasia and North America - with a beachhead in Southeast Asia - employing 25,000 globally and boasts annual revenue of $4.1 billion.

Orora Packaging New Zealand

Domestic Revenue:

$402 million

Profit Before Income Tax: $16.4 million

Income Tax Expense: $384,165

Australian-based packaging multinational Amcor spun off its Australasian business in late 2013 and listed the transtasman business on the ASX. The spinoff, Orora Packaging, employs 5500 people across New Zealand, Australia and North America.

The company's New Zealand business includes making and distributing a range of common but often overlooked items like bags for cement and milk powder, folding cartons, wine bottles and fibre displays for point-of-sale advertising.

The firm operates seven manufacturing sites in this country, from Hornby to Mt Wellington, and says its major customers in New Zealand include the food, beverage and industrial markets.