Cloud accounting heavyweight Xero has been recognised as the Company of the Year in the 2023 Deloitte Top 200 Awards for its transformative year marked by significant milestones.
Winners in the prestigious Deloitte Top 200 Awards were revealed tonight at Auckland’s Viaduct Events Centre. Now in its 34th year, the highly anticipated black-tie dinner event saw close to 900 business leaders gather to celebrate the best of New Zealand business.
This year, the awards recognise outstanding agility, resilience and results despite the pressures that business leaders have faced. Notably, they have navigated through the persistent cost-of-living crisis, inflationary pressures, geopolitical complexities, global unrest, and the severe weather events earlier this year.
READ MORE: Click here for the Deloitte Top 200 Index tables
After a difficult year in 2022, Xero completed a significant restructuring and saw strong revenue, subscriber, and share price growth. Founder Rod Drury formally stepped down from the board of directors after 17 years, and Sukhinder Singh Cassidy has taken on the role of chief executive.
Last month, Xero delivered a strong bottom-line result for the half-year to September 30, reporting a revenue rise of 21 per cent to $799.5 million and net profit increasing to $54.1m, compared to a net loss of $16.1m in the first half of the previous financial year.
The panel of high-profile judges, convened by NZME business editorial director Fran O’Sullivan, note Xero’s outstanding performance.
“Xero is an extraordinary Australasian success story and our leading high-tech success unicorn. Its current market capitalisation of over $15 billion makes it the most valuable NZ company, and one of the top 20 companies on the ASX,” they say.
“Xero has maintained strong margins and is keeping a disciplined focus on costs. This resulted in adjusted Ebitda up by 44 per cent in 2023 over 2022 and a share uplift of 44 per cent for the year ended September 30, 2023.”
Grant Webster, CEO of Tourism Holdings, was named Chief Executive Officer of the Year for his exceptional resilience and strategic prowess, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.
His leadership was crucial in navigating the world’s largest campervan rental company through a drastic downturn in international travel. By selling assets to protect shareholder value, he achieved record results, showcasing his ability to make tough yet effective decisions.
“Webster’s 15-year tenure as CEO has been defined by steering the company through major crises and positioning Tourism Holdings for future growth,” say the judges. “Tourism Holdings’ strategic expansion, combined with Webster’s adept relationship-building, spurred a remarkable financial recovery: turning a $2.1m loss into a $49.9m profit and a 92 per cent increase in revenue.”
“His legacy is that of a transformative leader who successfully converted challenges into opportunities for innovation and growth.”
The Visionary Leader award is the only one given without finalists. This year, the award went to the creative duo behind Wētā Workshop, Sir Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger. Renowned for their award-winning work on blockbuster films, their influence extends to tourist attractions, a digital game studio, and cultural collaborations in China.
“Sir Richard and Tania’s passion and creativity has brought imaginations to life, inspired millions, and put New Zealand’s creative industry on the world map,” say the judges. “They are New Zealand icons and true visionary leaders.”
Chairperson of the Year has been awarded to Rob Hewett. A prominent figure in New Zealand’s agribusiness sector, Hewett is co-chair of grass-fed red meat producer and marketer Silver Fern Farms and chair of Silver Fern Farms Co-operative. He is also chair of Farmlands Cooperative, Pioneer Energy, Woolworks, Fern Energy and Haulage and has directorships at Pulse Energy and T&G Global.
“Hewett has a very clear vision for the businesses he chairs, he communicates that well and maintains solid relationships with his managing directors,” the judges say.
They recognise that last year was a banner year for Silver Fern Farms and applaud Hewett for playing a significant role in its result, which saw a net profit after tax of $189.3m, representing an 82 per cent increase.
Xero’s chief financial officer, Kirsty Godfrey-Billy, was also recognised last night, taking out the award for Chief Financial Officer of the Year.
The judges say that during Godfrey-Billy’s five years as CFO, Xero New Zealand’s revenue has increased from about $550m to $1.4b – up 250 per cent.
“Godfrey-Billy is respected by the market, board, management and other stakeholders for her financial management over this period of growth, which includes developing and maintaining financing and tax management in multiple countries,” they say.
“During her time as CFO, the company has moved from a start-up approach in which revenue is paramount, to a more mature company, where revenue and profit growth are both important.”
Port of Auckland has been named winner of the Most Improved Performance award, for its remarkable turnaround in profitability and operations.
“By establishing effective strategies, the port has improved its financials, union relationships, health and safety practices, and operational performance,” the judges say. “Its profits and revenue have skyrocketed - with profit up $50.7m on last year and revenue increasing from $265.3m to $320.2m. The port has nearly doubled the dividend it pays to Auckland Council, which really demonstrates its commitment to delivering returns to shareholders.”
Natural health products provider Comvita has been recognised with the Best Growth Strategy award. The judges say its recent transformation programme, focused on sustainability and storytelling, has helped consumers connect with the brand, and secured rapid growth for the company.
“Comvita has seen strong business performance in China, its key growth market, where it has grown its revenue to $100m. It has also increased its e-commerce share of total sales from 23 per cent to 42 per cent.”
Penny Dell, Treasurer at ANZ, has been named Young Executive of the Year. She is the youngest and first woman to hold the role of Treasurer which involves the management of the funding, capital and liquidity of the bank’s $189b balance sheet – a critical, strategic position for New Zealand’s largest bank.
The judges say Dell is performing at a high level within a very large organisation: “She holds a position of great responsibility within the ANZ organisation and is clearly recognised as a valuable asset”.
Her time in the job has been through a period of significant market volatility. Dell has been responsible for completing many successful funding and capital transactions that have given her bank a competitive advantage.
NZME’s Te Rito journalism project is the winner of the Diversity & Inclusion Leadership award, a 12-month cadetship programme designed to enhance newsroom diversity, specifically focusing on Māori, Pasifika, ethnic, LGBTQIA+, and disabled voices. This initiative aims to provide entry points into media careers across various platforms, including digital, print, television, radio, and podcasts.
The judges were impressed by the novelty of the concept, the collaboration with other media industry players and the potential diversity and inclusion benefits to the nation. They say the partnership and the continuous learning embedded in the programme have ensured it is sustainable.
Gentailer Contact has received the Sustainability Leadership award for its dedication to spearheading New Zealand’s decarbonisation. It has more than $1.2b worth of renewable generation projects currently under construction, and a significant portfolio of further potential geothermal, wind, solar, and battery investments in the pipeline.
“We are impressed that Contact’s efforts in the space are driven and supported by leadership and filter across the national business,” the judges say. “They have created a galvanising framework for decarbonisation that attracts diverse talent and genuine innovations for sustainability actions.”
The Deloitte Top 200 awards include a special Judges’ Award. This award enables the judges to highlight performance they feel is of importance to the business community.
This year, there was a unanimous decision for John Loughlin to receive this award, who has dedicated his career to New Zealand’s agribusiness and infrastructure sectors.
With a governance career spanning three decades, Loughlin serves on a number of boards across critical industries, including Port of Napier, Toll New Zealand, Augusta Capital, Metlifecare, AgResearch, Prism Group Holdings, Central Lines, Dairy Technology Services, KiwiRail and Hop Revolution.
“Loughlin is an extremely talented and highly regarded director who relishes digging into companies and helping them to reach their full potential,” the judges say. “He particularly excels when providing leadership to industries that are challenged.”
“Loughlin’s often finds himself chair at companies he first joined as a director, which shows just how effective and well-regarded he is around board tables. It’s really no surprise that he’s in high demand for the country’s senior governance roles.”
Deloitte chief executive Mike Horne reflected on the last year and its effect on the business community, “with a cost-of-living crisis, inflation, global unrest, and severe weather events, our communities and our economy have taken a beating, but it’s within this challenging landscape that we’ve seen the most resilient and innovative organisations emerge successful.”
“The businesses recognised on the Top 200 have displayed innovative and thoughtful solutions, including creatively rethinking products and services, that have undoubtedly ensured the long-term survival of their businesses, and it’s what has made them our ‘champions of adaptability.’
Returning in her role as judging convener for the 34th year of the awards, NZME’s Fran O’Sullivan said “the Top 200 gives us an opportunity to celebrate unmatched leadership and team performances from the best in New Zealand business.”
“It takes a lot of business prowess to deliver strong results in challenging times, and even more to be at the forefront of our economy, committed to leading the way.”
Deloitte Top 200 Index
The Deloitte Top 200 Index consists of New Zealand’s largest entities ranked by revenue. These include publiclylisted companies, large unlisted entities, NZ subsidiaries and branches of overseas companies and the commercial operations of Māori entities. It also includes producer boards, co-operatives, local authority trading enterprises and state-owned enterprises.
An overview of the Top 200 Index as well as New Zealand’s Top 30 finance companies has been included toward the back of this 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 view of the Top 200 this year shows total revenues for Top 200 companies increasing by 12.4 per cent. This compares to a 9.8 per cent increase in 2022. Underlying earnings (Ebitda) increased 8.1 per cent, and total profits after tax also increased 4.0 per cent year-on-year.
Year-on-year assets for the Top 30 finance companies have grown 9.3 per cent, with cumulative profits increasing by 11.4 per cent.
ANZ continues to be the largest bank with assets of $201b, ahead of second placed Westpac by $65b. ANZ also outpaces all other banks in terms of profit and equity.