At last night’s highly anticipated Deloitte Top 200 event, the winners of 11 award categories were unveiled.

The prestigious black-tie event recognises and honours outstanding performance among New Zealand’s largest companies and trading organisations. Held at Auckland’s Spark arena, there was a record turnout — with 1100 of New Zealand’s premier business leaders, politicians and media in attendance.

Mainfreight took out the top award, recognised as the Deloitte Digital/Marsh Company of the Year for its outstanding achievement over the past year and for being among New Zealand’s most globally successful businesses.

The logistics and transport company has been a frequent sight at the awards over the years. It was a finalist for Best Corporate Strategy and Most Improved Performance in 1996 and 2005, won awards for Best Growth Strategy in 2007 and 2012, and was previously awarded Company of the Year in 2011.

This year, the panel of high-profile judges — convened by NZME Head of Business Content Fran O’Sullivan — said Mainfreight was a deserving winner, recognising that it has reported one of the standout financial performances of the year, with strong growth in operating earnings in the international regions it operates in.

“These results demonstrate that Mainfreight is growing its market share in those large markets, underpinning growth in group profits for the year of 26 per cent and on total revenues of just under $3 billion,” said the judges.

Given Mainfreight’s long-running success, it is plain to see why managing director Don Braid was crowned Executive of the Decade. He has been a previous recipient of the coveted Executive of the Year award in both 2008 and 2011 — one of only two executives to have achieved this in the history of the Deloitte Top 200 awards.

The judges said Braid, who has been at the helm of Mainfreight for all of the past decade, is an outstanding leader with vision, drive and humility. He set Mainfreight on a course to expand internationally in the highly competitive global supply chain logistics business and has successfully delivered on that strategy with outstanding performance.

Outgoing Mercury head Fraser Whineray, who is about to begin a challenging new role as chief operating officer at Fonterra, was named this year’s Deloitte/ServiceNow Chief Executive Officer of the Year.

The judges said he has not only delivered record earnings for Mercury along with solid dividend growth, but also re-positioned the company around its 100 per cent renewable generation position while undertaking an active capital investment programme especially around wind generation.

The only award that is given without finalists — the NZ Herald Premium Visionary Leader — went to former Labour Cabinet Minister and Wellington Mayor Dame Fran Wilde. The judges say this prestigious award recognises Wilde’s ability to see opportunities and take on tough issues — and her passion and energy to make New Zealand a better place.

The judges say Wilde’s contribution to the country has long been underrated: “She does things that are worthwhile. She sees opportunities that are good for the country and the community and is prepared to invest time and effort to help out, paid or unpaid.”

After having been a finalist in the category last year, David Pilkington was named Hobson Leavy Executive Search Chairperson of the Year. He currently chairs the boards of Port of Tauranga, Douglas Pharmaceuticals and investment firm Rangatira.

The judges say he is an inclusive chair, facilitating an environment to get the best out of people, and was selected “due to his track record of success as a chair over a long period”.

Grant Ellis of Restaurant Brands — the company which operates the KFC, Carl’s Junior, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell brands in New Zealand — was awarded University of Auckland Business School Chief Financial Officer of the Year. The judges say Ellis, who has run the financials for over 20 years, has been a key part of the management team and helped drive its growth strategy. “The success of that has resulted in Restaurant Brands delivering top decile shareholder returns of over 30 per cent per annum for the past 10 years,” they say.

The Warehouse Group took out the Most Improved Performance award this year, impressing judges with its significant growth in revenue, profits and gross margin — and share price — in the 2019 financial year.

They say its performance is due to the successful execution of its business transformation programme in a changing and challenging retail environment.

Datacom was recognised with the 2degrees Best Growth Strategy award. The judges say the longevity and dexterity of the information technology services firm was recognition of its ability to thrive when competing with traditional global players — accumulating an enviable record of 21 years of continuous revenue growth.

Datacom were winners again in the Eagle Technology Young Executive of the Year category, with enterprise portfolio manager James David recognised for his huge vision, passion and outstanding leadership potential.

The judges say David “provides a great example — integrating and celebrating his Māori culture within the corporate world,” adding that he is very focused on bridging that cultural divide to change the country for the better.

Downer’s continued commitment to the Te Ara Whanake programme and its intent over the past five years to increase diversity throughout the company, saw it recognised with a win in the Diversity and Leadership category.

Air New Zealand took out the MinterEllisonRuddWatts Sustainable Business Leadership award. A new category in the awards this year, it recognises businesses working toward creation of long-term environmental, social and economic value.

The judges say while they acknowledge the airline’s environmental impact, they applaud it for introducing measures in areas where it can, and for having a strong impact in social and governance aspects of the category.

The Deloitte Top 200 Index consists of New Zealand’s largest entities ranked by revenue. These entities include publicly-listed 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.

The 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 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 continued growth. Total revenues rose by 4.0 per cent compared to the 2018 figure. This increase also drove an increase in underlying earnings (EBITDA), which rose by 5.7 per cent. Total profits after tax were also up 6.3 per cent year-on-year.

Eighteen companies made their debut on the Top 200 Index this year. Most notable was Lotto NZ, which entered the Index at the highest rank (37th) with revenue of $1,113m.

Year-on-year asset growth for the Top 30 finance companies outpaced last year’s figures, up 4.0 per cent. Cumulative profits also increased by 8.3 per cent.

Despite a difficult year, ANZ continues to sit comfortably at the top spot with $159.0b in assets, outranking its closest competitor BNZ by $59.0b. There has been a reshuffle of rankings between the biggest banks. BNZ has overtaken Westpac to rank second this year, increasing total assets by 4.9 per cent.

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