The 2024 Top 100: The tough get going

B.C.’s economic slowdown is evident in the Top 100 results. Still, there were a few standout performers

See the complete list: The 2024 Top 100: 1 to 50 and The 2024 Top 100: 51 to 100

Official GDP figures, juiced as they have been lately by record-high immigration, have yet to confirm it. But if you look at the financial results of this year’s Top 100 companies, it’s instantly apparent: British Columbia is mired in an economic slowdown.

Aggregate revenues for the Top 100 crept only marginally upward in 2023, to $281 billion from $262.7 billion a year earlier, following 16-percent-plus jumps in 2021 and 2022. That represented a 6.6-percent increase, barely matching the rate of inflation, and is consistent with TD Economics estimates from March, which pegged nominal GDP growth at 2.7 percent and real (inflation adjusted) growth at 1 percent in 2023. Don’t expect a quick turnaround in 2024, either; TD expects just half a percentage point of real growth. Even the provincial government is projecting less than 1 percent.

The trend line is especially evident in the results for the province’s natural resource producers. Revenues for mining, forestry and energy companies were down almost across the board, and the profit picture looked even worse. You can even see it in donations to the province’s largest charities (p.58), which are noticeably down from recent years.

Industrial equipment seller RB Global (formerly Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers) has seen revenue more than double since 2022

This is not to say there aren’t bright spots in this year’s Top 100. Several stalwart performers, especially those that sell directly to consumers, continued to grind out higher revenues and, in a few cases, higher earnings. Exhibit A is Lululemon Athletica, which, if it can maintain the growth rate it saw over the last decade, will be B.C.’s largest company before long (to match its status as the most valuable company—more on that on page 58). That’s despite solid revenue growth from the current list-toppers, Telus Corp. and Jim Pattison Group.

Speaking of standouts, industrial equipment reseller RB Global, formerly Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers, more than doubled its revenues last year thanks mainly to its US$7 billion takeover of Chicago-based IAA, a digital sales platform for cars. The question now is whether the organization will maintain its Canadian headquarters, with management increasingly clustered stateside.

Pan American Silver likewise moved up the list as a result of its acquisition of Yamana Gold (minus Yamana’s Canadian assets, which went to Agnico Eagle Mines of Toronto). The addition of Yamana’s properties in Argentina, Chile and Brazil helped push Pan American’s revenues up by 60 percent.

Smaller mining companies with facilities starting or restarting operations also witnessed large percentage revenue increases, like SilverCrest Metals and Imperial Metals, which both sit just outside of the Top 100 list. Insurer WorkSafeBC, whose revenues tend to bounce around year to year, saw a 140-percent swing to the positive. Developer and financier Beedie staged a spectacular 179-percent revenue jump. And seemingly shrugging off a strike at its Vancouver refinery late in 2023, Rogers Sugar boosted revenues and turned a sweet profit after a year of losses in 2022.

Last year, Lundin Mining announced that it was relocating from Toronto to Vancouver—and bringing big business with it

Attracting head offices

One undeniable win for B.C.’s corporate community in 2023 was Lundin Mining’s decision to relocate from Toronto to Vancouver, where most of the other companies controlled or significantly owned by the Swedish-Canadian Lundin family (Lundin Gold, International Petroleum, Lucara Diamond, Filo Corp.) are already located.

“Our move to the West Coast is about collaboration across the Lundin Group of Companies, and beginning a new adventure as we sharpen focus on our high-quality operations and material growth,” the company explains on its website. The move coincided with company president Jack Lundin’s elevation to CEO last fall, succeeding Peter Rockandel—a move frowned upon by investors at the time. Regardless of the motives, Lundin Mining’s arrival brings $4.6 billion in annual revenues and hundreds of jobs to downtown Vancouver.

Another revelation from this year’s Top 100 is just how big a deal Arc’teryx Equipment has become. Thanks to parent company Amer Sports’ initial public offering in January, we have the first reliable disclosure of the North Vancouver-based outdoor apparel company’s revenues in years—nearly $2 billion when converted into Canadian dollars, and growing at a rate of 57 percent year-over-year.

But for every apparition, it seems, a veil of fog falls. The US$8.1-billion acquisition of multinational chemicals distributor Univar Solutions by private equity firm Apollo Funds last spring means we no longer enjoy public reporting of Richmond-based subsidiary Univar Canada’s financial results. It is absent from the Top 100 as a result.

Some of our Top 100 companies got acquired in the past year, like HSBC Bank Canada (now RBC), Absolute Software (now Crosspoint) and Copper Mountain Mining (now Hudbay Minerals)

Where the no-shows went

And, as always, some companies have simply dropped off the list. Volatility in revenue is an occupational hazard in the life sciences industry, as licencing deals go into effect and expire. This afflicted AbCellera Biologics and Zymeworks, which saw their revenues plunge to $51.3 million and $102.6 million, respectively, from $631.7 million and $536.8 million a year earlier (converted from U.S. dollars). Though disappointing, it’s reasonable to expect these companies, which are well capitalized and continue to expand operationally, to rejoin the Top 100 at a later date.

Such is not the case with digital content firm BBTV Holdings, which was taken private by insiders in the second half of 2023 amid falling revenues and huge losses.

Other past Top 100 inductees were acquired in the past year. Absolute Software became a wholly owned subsidiary of Menlo Park, California-based Crosspoint Capital Partners in July in exchange for US$870 million in cash to shareholders and assumed debt. Copper Mountain Mining became part of Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals.

With this year’s Top 100 we also bid a fond farewell to HSBC Bank Canada, which was finally absorbed by Royal Bank of Canada as of April. (RBC signage already adorns the bank’s former headquarters on Georgia Street.) Created in 1966 by then-premier W.A.C. Bennett as the Bank of British Columbia, it was acquired by HSBC in 1986 and expanded as the multinational financial institution’s Canadian toehold until the parent decided to exit the Great White North in 2022 and put it up for sale. It appears in the number 30 spot, but for the last time.

See the complete list: The 2024 Top 100: 1 to 50 and The 2024 Top 100: 51 to 100