The 2023 Top 100: Never a dull moment

Our list of B.C.'s biggest companies by revenue reveals which top guns brought their A-game in the 2022 fiscal year.

See the complete list: The 2023 Top 100: 1 to 50 and The 2023 Top 100: 51 to 100

The importance, but also the precarity, of maintaining a robust corporate community in British Columbia has seldom been more evident than during this past spring’s compilation of our Top 100 list. As Teck Resources—the province’s No. 2 company and the largest mining concern in all of Canada—attempted to spin off its metallurgical coal division, it became the target of a takeover bid by Swiss commodity giant Glencore PLC.

While Teck sought to create a new coal mining company, Elk Valley Resources, that would leave its core metals division fully investible by fossil-fuel-averse institutions, Glencore put forward a plan to merge Elk Valley with its own thermal coal operations and create a nominally Vancouver-based metals subsidiary called GlenTeck. A rattled Teck management, backed by founder and (for now) controlling shareholder Norman Keevil, ended up scrapping the shareholder vote at the eleventh hour, promising to come up with a proposal more appealing to shareholders of both Teck and Elk Valley. No doubt there will be more chapters to come in this saga.

Left out of these deliberations were the rest of us in B.C., who in many cases benefit from the white-collar jobs, access to capital and wealth creation that come with having the head offices of companies like Teck located in the province. Without the corporations that fill out the ranks of the Top 100, local perspectives would be far from the minds of distant decision-makers. Charitable fundraising, too, would be much more challenging.

Notwithstanding the stock-market setback, 2022 was still a year of growth on the ground for B.C.’s corporate titans. The economy decelerated from its torrid growth during 2021’s pandemic reopening to a still brisk rate of GDP growth of around 3 percent in 2022. (The province’s Economic Forecast Council estimated the year’s growth rate to be 2.9 percent in December; TD Economics pegged it at 3.1 percent in March.) Exports originating in B.C. hit a new high of $64.9 billion, a 20-percent increase over 2021. Construction activity on four big megaprojects—the LNG Canada terminal, the associated Coastal GasLink pipeline, the Site C dam and the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion—all hovered around their peaks. With operations starting on these big pieces of infrastructure around mid-decade, exports should continue to rise in the medium term.

In the meantime, workforces on these projects will wind down, which could exacerbate unemployment should a long-predicted recession finally hit. At the time of writing, however, the labour market in B.C. is still tight.

How B.C. companies fared

The Top 100’s aggregate revenues rose 16.8 percent in 2022—on top of a similar increase a year earlier—to $262.7 billion. As inflation raged, retailers and other companies selling directly to consumers saw their revenues jump the most they have in years. Telecom giant Telus stayed on top with a healthy 8.6-percent increase, but Lululemon Athletica is on track to become the province’s largest company by revenues within three years (to go along with its seat atop the market-capitalization heap) should it maintain its pace of growth. The results for the province’s natural resources companies were mixed, as prices for commodities such as forest products and some minerals moderated from their 2021 peaks.

For the first time, there were five B.C.- headquartered companies with revenues in the 11 figures—up from four last year and just two in 2020. Paper Excellence and Lululemon both joined the club once their results were converted into Canadian dollars, while two of last year’s inductees—West Fraser Timber and copper miner First Quantum Minerals—just failed to make the cut.

A special note on Paper Excellence: its extraordinary growth in recent years has been fuelled by a spate of international acquisitions. Last year we included the results of just Paper Excellence Canada, which was established in 2007, backed by private investors from Indonesia. But those operations are now augmented by acquisitions, including Domtar and Resolute Forest Products in Eastern Canada and the U.S., cellulose producer Eldorado Brasil and two French pulp mills, all overseen from the Paper Excellence Group headquarters on Lysander Lane in Richmond. So this year we included the entire group, which has disclosed total revenues of US$10.9 billion for 2022. That equates to the C$14.2 billion listed in the table.

The company is the subject of ongoing media, regulatory and political scrutiny around its opaque beneficial ownership, environmental record and use of government green grants that we won’t go into here. The fact remains that the privately held operation is now the largest forest-products company headquartered in Canada.

Other big gainers in 2022 included drug developer Zymeworks, which, thanks to a licensing deal reached with Jazz Pharmaceuticals PLC last fall, boosted its revenue by an eye-popping 1,505 percent. BC Lottery Corp. more than doubled its revenues as casinos were able to reopen. Ivanhoe Mines leapt into the ranks of the Top 100 on the back of a 150-percent revenue jump, as did Well Health with an 88-percent gain.

The biggest loser, ahead of those listed on page 97, was Trevali Mining Corp., which, after landing in the 97th spot last year, entered into creditor protection in 2022.

So long, good to know you

This is likely the last time we’ll see a few long-time listees among the Top 100. After four decades, HSBC Canada is in the process of being absorbed by new owner Royal Bank of Canada. Another financial institution, Canaccord Genuity, is attempting to go private via a management buyout; if the regulatory issues are ironed out, future disclosure of its financial information will be unlikely. California-based Semtech Corp. closed its takeover of Richmond’s Sierra Wireless early in 2023, meaning we had only nine months of 2022 financial results to go on. (The internet-of-things company still managed to improve on its 2021 revenue total, which included all four quarters.) And Toronto’s Hudbay Minerals is swallowing Copper Mountain Mining.

We can expect to see some new names, though, in the near future. There is the aforementioned Elk Valley Resources, if all goes as Teck plans. A couple of thus-far exploration companies based in Vancouver, Sigma Lithium Corp. and Lithium Americas Corp., are scheduled to begin production at scale in South America this year. Closer to home, mining junior Artemis Gold has begun construction at its Blackwater gold mine in the Cariboo.

If you’re unfamiliar with the name Adentra (#31), that is the new appellation of the Langley-based building-supply company formerly known as Hardwoods Distribution.

So yes, like any community, the Top 100 experiences its share of churn. That only reflects the reallocation of capital to where it’s most needed—the basis, we hope, of a sustainably prosperous future.

See the complete list: The 2023 Top 100: 1 to 50 and The 2023 Top 100: 51 to 100