Zespri has taken out top honours as Deloitte Digital/Marsh Company of the Year in the 2018 Top 200 Awards — partly due to an impressive 38 per cent lift in net profit and record payments to its growers.

The highly anticipated awards, held annually to recognise and honour outstanding performance among New Zealand's largest companies and trading organisations, were unveiled at a glittering dinner held at Spark Arena in Auckland last night.

Zespri has been a frequent sight at the awards in recent years — the kiwifruit exporter was a finalist for Most Improved Performance in 2015, and took out the awards for Most Improved Performance and Best Growth Strategy in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

This year, the judges said Zespri was a deserving winner of Company of the Year, recognising that its superb returns represent the culmination of its long-term premium brand-led strategy. Thanks to the company's turnaround since the Psa outbreak in 2010, they say the kiwifruit industry is now a great success story for New Zealand innovation.
"When you look at the volumes, the tray returns, the growth in China, the share price – all those measures — the company looks very successful," the judges added.

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Given Zespri's success, it is plain to see why Peter McBride was awarded New Zealand Herald Chairperson of the Year. In the role since 2013, he was recognised by judges for his understated style as a consultative chair, running a highly cohesive, functional board.

In his time as chair, McBride has presided over a CEO change, addressed compliance issues, seen the SFO investigation conclude satisfactorily, rolled out a new fruit variety, and pushed through greater transparency in the way Zespri allocates fruit.

McBride recently announced his intention to step down as Zespri chair early next year, but the board say the changes he shepherded through will provide long-term sustainability for Zespri, and are a testament to how strong the co-operative is.

Restaurant Brands chief executive Russel Creedy was named Deloitte/ServiceNow Chief Executive Officer of the Year.

The judges said outstanding returns for investors that the food franchiser has delivered are recognition of Creedy's leadership style, particularly given constant industry disruption, which Restaurant Brands is not spared from. Shares in Restaurant Brands are worth around 900 per cent more than they were when Creedy took over as chief executive in 2007 — a key reason for Restaurant Brands being included as a finalist this year for Company of the Year.

The Sheffield Visionary Leader for 2018 was Marilyn Waring. The judges say this prestigious award not only recognises a person important in New Zealand's political history but also someone who has shown original, visionary thinking and application in the economic sphere.

ASB bank's Jon Raby was awarded Chief Financial Officer of the Year. The judges say Raby fulfils the core strengths of highly successful CFO's by leading a finance function that produces highly accurate financial statements, and using his financial knowledge to partner with the CEO and business to drive shareholder value.

In his six and a half years in the job, the bank's financial results have gone from strength to strength – from a net profit in 2012 of $685m to a net profit this year of $1.177b – the second consecutive year the bank has made more than a billion dollars.

After being a finalist in the category last year, Sanford took out the MinterEllisonRuddWatts Excellence in Governance award.

New Zealand's biggest and oldest seafood company aspires to be the best seafood company in the world, and is acutely aware that the company's future depends on its long-term sustainability.

Sanford places a strong emphasis on the sustainable growth of its business and on being a good corporate citizen — actions that are well-documented in their strong integrated reporting which has been recognised as a leader in the market.

Iconic New Zealand brand Skellerup took out the OneRoof.co.nz award for Most Improved Performance this year, ahead of finalists Kathmandu and Kordia.

Skellerup impressed the judges with continued growth in international markets and they described the diversified business as a healthy New Zealand story.

Fulton Hogan picked up the 2Degrees award for Best Growth Strategy. The judges say the infrastructure construction and road maintenance firm has a standout growth strategy and has been a great performer in an industry where others have not succeeded.

SKYCITY's group-wide policy for the board of directors to set measurable objectives to promote diversity, along with clear programmes and initiatives in place, saw it recognised with a win in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Diversity and Inclusion Leadership category.

Caroline Rawlinson was recognised as the Eagle Technology Young Executive of the Year for her humility, self-awareness and strong commercial acumen. The judges said the chief financial officer at Trade Me "showed an impressive ability to adapt her leadership style to different sectors, including building products and consulting, as well as different parts of the world."

The Deloitte Top 200 list includes publicly-listed and private companies, NZ subsidiaries of multinational companies, co-operatives, societies and state-owned enterprises.

The primary financial figures for the Top 200 as well as New Zealand's Top 30 finance companies have been produced in full toward the back of this Dynamic Business 2018 report — showing revenue, profitability, efficiency and more.

These numbers offer an insight into how the biggest companies in New Zealand operate and are accompanied by explanations and insight from the Herald's team of business reporters.

The high-level story for the Top 200 this year is growth.

Total revenues rose by 7.7 per cent compared with the 2017 figure, underlying earnings (EBITDA) rose by 6.9 per cent. This indicates that Top 200 companies have done an impressive job of reducing costs by a far greater degree than the fall in revenue.

Fourteen companies made their debut on the Top 200 this year. Most notable was poultry producer Inghams, which debuted at 109th place with revenue of $396 million.

Year-on-year asset growth for the Top 30 finance companies outpaced last year's figures, up 2.5 per cent — but a smaller increase than the 7 per cent seen last year. Cumulative profits also increased by 15.4 per cent.

Of the big four banks, ANZ continues to lead the way with $154.0 billion in assets, outranking its closest competitor Westpac by $58.3b. This year is the first time in several years where there has been a change in rankings between the biggest banks. ASB has beaten BNZ to take third place, increasing total assets by 7.7 per cent.