Business Index Top 100 reflects an economy in flux

It’s been a remarkably tough year for South Australian business.

Oct 28, 2015, updated Aug 29, 2019

It has been a year of adaptation, as the state responds to traditional and big businesses sounding industrial adjustment and announcing the ends of eras.

It’s been a period when the State Government was forced to creep up to the economic cliff, look over the precipice and wonder how it would minimise the damage to it and South Australians when it finally did have to jump away from some long-established industries.

With big business announcing job cuts almost monthly, it was a year when South Australia claimed the unenviable title of the highest unemployment and lowest workforce participation in the country.

As the cuts and closures rolled in through the year, SA had to acknowledge that times were a-changing and, like a redundant office worker, had to give up some of its identity to reinvent itself.

It had to coax out what the “new typical South Australian” industries would look like in another 10 years – or much, much sooner.

InDaily’s South Australian Business Index Top 100 provides a glimpse of what that economic future may look like.

Businesses listed in the top 100 contribute approximately 27 per cent (equivalent revenue) of the South Australian economy.

Santos – after arguably the most tumultuous year in its history – still sits in top position but the list is peppered with a range of rising sectors and fledgling businesses that are identifying gaps that will be left by resources (at least some parts) and traditional manufacturing.

Others in the top 25 include some of South Australia’s most enduring business names – but move further down the list, and we can glimpse the up and coming sectors and companies.

Scroll down to see the top 25

It’s no surprise that heading employment and sector revenue are oil and mining (4900 workers/22 per cent revenue) and construction and engineering (10,406 workers/17 per cent).

However, what is unanticipated is the tightening gap between these areas of traditional strength and other sectors.

The big standout is the wine and food sector, which contributes 16 per cent of revenue identified in the index. Of the industrial sectors represented in the top 100, it is the third-largest employer with a 5500-strong workforce, creating 12 per cent of jobs among the represented companies.

Food and wine representation is bountiful with 17 companies named in the state’s top 100 businesses.

Retail, with a 12 per cent stake in our state’s economy, employs 3874 people or supplies 9 per cent of the jobs in the represented industrial sectors.

An area of huge potential growth is in the sector needed to look after our most vulnerable – health and aged care – which contributes only 2 per of the revenue, or $108,835 per worker, but creates 4380 jobs or 10 per cent of the employment.

On a wealth creation per employment scale, SA’s financial services sector contributed more per workers than any other sector, with $1,283,499 created per employee.

Oil and mining creates $1,198,794 for every worker, compared to $845,564 per electricity worker, $831,982 per worker in food and wine, $824,972 for every worker in retail and $449,743 per worker in tourism and transport.

According to the latest CommSec State of the States economic performance report, South Australia is at risk of being overtaken by Tasmania, which is showing better momentum.

The quarterly analysis of Australia’s states and territories key indicators studied South Australia’s economic growth, retail spending, equipment investment, unemployment, construction undertaken, population growth, housing finance and housing construction.

SA’s population growth (0.83 per cent) and equipment investment ($711m) were the only categories stemming the push from the Apple Isle to swap last position.

Compared with the state’s average economic key performance a decade ago, SA’s unemployment rate has plummeted 41.7 per cent (latest labour force figures sitting on 7.7 per cent) with much of the damage being inflicted during the past two years.

Paradoxically, our love of shopping remains healthy with retail up 7.7 per cent compared with a decade ago, generating some $4,585 million during the October quarter.

While the state’s economic seismic shift is yet to settle down and we await the last wave of the flagged mass manufacturing redundancies in the automobile and, potentially, defence sectors, the new and established industries which are emerging, and recognised in the Top 100, are diligently filling a void, seeking out new markets and being recognised by governments as the new generation of workforce providers for South Australians.

Arrowcrest Group Pty Ltd
Sector: Manufacturing
Financial year revenue: $238,000,000
Employees: Not published
Arrowcrest Group manufactures and distributes automotive products for ROH Wheels Australia, Unicast Diecastings and Flocast Australia.
The Hickinbotham Group
Sector: Construction and Engineering
Financial year revenue: $235,000,000
Hickinbotham Holdings is an Australian family-owned property development and construction company.
 Argo Investments23
Argo Investments Limited
Sector: Financial services
Financial year revenue: $249,080,000
Employees: 14
Argo Investments Limited is an Australian listed investment company, which trades its shares on the Australian Stock Exchange.
Ahrens Group Pty Ltd
Sector: Construction and Engineering
Financial year revenue: $266,958,000
Employees: 400
Ahrens Group operates solely in Australia and employs about 400 people. Its head office is in Sheaoak Log, South Australia.
Adelaide Community Healthcare Alliance Incorporated
Sector: Healthcare
Financial year revenue: $286,159,000
Employees: 2200
Adelaide Community Healthcare Alliance Incorporated operates: Ashford Hospital, Flinders Private Hospital, and The Memorial Hospital.
Royal Automobile Association of SA Inc
Sector: Financial
Financial year revenue: $300,000,000
Employees: 770
The Royal Automobile Association (RAA) of South Australia provides motoring services employs over 850 staff throughout South Australia.
ElectraNet Pty Ltd
Sector: Electricity Transmission
Financial year revenue: $317,039,000
Employees: Not published
ElectraNet owns and operates more than $2.5b of electricity transmission assets over long distances and to remote areas.
Lighting Investments Australia
Sector: Lighting
Financial year revenue: $337,303,000
Employees: 1060
Lighting Investments Australia Holdings manufactures, distributes and sells a variety of lighting products.
Badge Group (SA) Pty Ltd.
Sector: Construction
Financial year revenue: $345,989,000
Employees: 204
Badge Constructions Group is a locally owned group of companies that employs about 200 people.
Shute Bay Investments Pty Ltd
Sector: Paper and Board packaging
Financial year revenue: $348,000,000
Employees: 2500
Shute Bay Investments manufactures paper, film and packaging products.
Hills Limited
Sector: Home & Hardware, Electronic Security & Entertainment, Building & Industrial
Financial year revenue: $424,670,000
Employees: 862
Hills Limited offers a wide range of technology and services products, including integrated security, surveillance, audio visual and lighting.
 Accolade Wines14
Accolade Wines Holdings Australia Pty Limited
Sector: Wine
Financial year revenue: $456,902,000
Employees: 1680
Australia’s largest winemaker, Accolade Wines grew from Thomas Hardy and Sons, founded by Thomas Hardy in 1853 in Adelaide.
 K&S Corp13
K & S Corporation Limited
Sector: Freight
Financial year revenue: $699,090,000
Employees: 1800
K&S Freighters provides road, rail and coastal freight, including export packing, wharf lodgement and systems solutions to key customers.
 Beach Energy12
Beach Energy Limited
Sector: Oil and gas
Financial year revenue: $727,700,000
Employees: Not published
Formed in 1961 and listed on the ASX in 1962, Beach Energy is an oil and gas exploration and production company based in Adelaide.
 Oz Minerals11
OZ Minerals
Sector: Mining
Financial year revenue: $831,000,000
Employees: 1200
OZ Minerals is an Australian mining company, formed from the merger of Oxiana Limited and Zinifex in 2008.

TOP 10


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Drakes Supermarkets Pty Ltd
Sector: Retail
Financial year revenue: $1,000,000,000+
Employees: 5500
Drakes Supermarkets is the largest independent grocery retailer in Australia and specialises in supermarket retailing. Operating in more than 50 stores across South Australia and Queensland, the company now has an annual turnover in excess of $1 billion and employs more than 5500 staff nationally.


CMV Group Pty Ltd
Sector: Retail
Financial year revenue: $1,057,417,000
Employees: 1236
From a staff of five in 1934, the CMV Group now operates substantial operations in automotive dealerships and horticulture predominately in South Australia and Victoria, employing more than 1200 staff and has an annual turnover in excess of $1 billion.


Boart Longyear Limited
Sector: Construction and engineering
Financial year revenue: $1,076,671,000
Employees: 5933
Boart Longyear Limited is a provider of drilling services, drilling equipment and performance tooling for mining and drilling companies. The company operates through two segments: Global Drilling Services and Global Products.

Logo_StatewideSuper UPDATED

Sector: Financial services
Financial year revenue: $1,239,365,000
Employees: 109
Statewide is a South Australian industry fund that is open to all industries and locations. In July 2012, Statewide merged with Local Super, from South Australia to form StatewideSuper. The new fund has in excess of $6 billion in funds under management and 150,000 members.


Adelaide Brighton Ltd
Sector: Contractors and engineers
Financial year revenue: $1,336,000,000
Employees: 1600
Adelaide Brighton Cement (ABC) is an Australian manufacturer of cement, lime and dry blended products. ABC operates manufacturing and distribution facilities in South Australia, the Northern Territory, Fyansford, Victoria and New South Wales. Associated brands and companies include Geelong Cement, Cockburn Cement, Sunstate Cement, Northern Cement, Independent Cement & Lime, and Building Product Supplies. It is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange as Adelaide Brighton Limited (ABC).


SA Power Networks
Sector: Electricity provision
Financial year revenue: $1,404,530,000
Employees: 2036
SA Power Networks (previously ETSA Utilities) is the operator of the South Australian electricity distribution network, delivering electricity from the high voltage transmission network connection points through a network of about 87,500 kilometres of powerlines, to about 830,000 residential and business customers throughout most of South Australia.


Elders Limited
Sector: Food and wine
Financial year revenue: $1,431,520,000
Employees: 1937
Elders Limited is an Australian-based agribusiness company. Elder Smith & Co was founded in 1839 in South Australia by Alexander Lang Elder as a new arm of his family’s Scottish-based merchant and shipping business.


Thomas Foods International Consolidated Pty Ltd
Sector: Food and wine
Financial year revenue: $1,500,000,000
Employees: 2500
Thomas Foods International Consolidated generates revenue from livestock trading, meat processing and meat wholesaling. The company supplies a wide range of meat products for domestic and overseas markets, exporting to more than 80 countries.


Peregrine Corporation Pty Ltd
Sector: Retail
Financial year revenue: $1,650,000,000
Employees: 2200
Peregrine Corporation generates the majority of its revenue by operating a chain of service stations and convenience retail outlets under the On The Run (OTR) banner in South Australia. The company also operates a chain of tobacconists across Australia under the Smokemart & GiftBox brand.


Santos Ltd
Sector: Oil and mining
Financial year revenue: $4,099,000,000
Employees: 3636
Santos is Australia’s largest domestic gas producer, supplying sales gas to all mainland states and territories, ethane to Sydney as well as oil and liquids to domestic and international customers. The company’s core business was built on gas and oil discoveries in the Cooper Basin, predominantly spanning north-east South Australia and south-west Queensland. These gas reserves are the main source of natural gas to Australia’s eastern states.

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