Pharma remains SEE’s most profitable sector

By Antonia Kokalova-Gray

Throughout a year marked by sporadic but enduring pandemic breakouts, the pharmaceutical industry in Southeast Europe, represented in the SEE Top 100 ranking by two companies, retained its leading profitability standing with a double-digit return on revenue (RoR). This indicator, however, eased to 14.46% in 2021 from 15.42% in 2020, after Slovenia’s Krka booked a 4.8% drop in revenue to 1.4 billion euro.

As economies around the world recovered and metal prices surged on global markets after demand outpaced supply, the metals sector booked a rise in profitability to 8.57% from 3.33%, and displaced the glass industry from second position. Seven metals companies made it to the SEE Top 100 rankings, with top-five lister Aurubis Bulgaria, a unit of German copper producer Aurubis, jumping ahead of other sector players thanks to a 37% rise in revenue.

Revenue returns at SEE’s telecoms businesses, Romanian operators in particular, allowed the sector to emerge as the third most profitable last year, with a RoR of 6.76% against 5.22% in 2020. With some 5 billion euro of total revenue, telecommunications, represented by five companies, came in sixth in terms of revenue, after an aggregate annual increase of some 400 million euro.

SEE’s rubber producers, represented by seven companies including tyre manufacturers Tigar Tyres in Serbia and Michelin Romania, slipped to fourth place in the profitability rankings and thirteenth in terms of total revenue.

With industrial production gradually beginning to restore its impetus after the near-standstill of 2020, the petroleum and gas, and electricity sectors emerged as a major growth driver. However, the two sectors’ total RoR was not as remarkable as their total revenue as price volatility in the beginning of the year brought losses to some sector players. The oil and gas sector generated the highest total revenue out of the 15 sectors monitored, with a 53.8% annual growth rate to 43.7 billion euro, yet RoR came in at 4.32%. The electricity sector, with 15 companies featured in this year’s rankings, accounted for the region’s thirdhighest revenue, of roughly 25.1 billion euro, and the fifth highest RoR, of 4.46%.

With pandemic-driven constraints easing, consumption picking up and e-commerce expanding further, the wholesale/retail sector booked the second-highest total revenue, of 33.8 billion euro. Meanwhile, RoR in wholesale/retail placed it in eighth position, unchanged from 2020. Wholesale/retail was also the best represented sector with 26 companies, including two new entrants.

Although the manufacturers of cars and car parts kept their 11th place in terms of profitability, which inched up just 0.8 percentage points, the industry had the fourth-highest total revenue in SEE, of 14.2 billion euro. Production rates in the sector remained negatively affected by the ongoing chip shortages and high prices of raw materials.


The SEE industrial ranking pools together the revenue generated by all companies in SEE TOP 100 and ranks sectors by cumulative revenue. Year-on-year changes in the sectors’ total revenue have been calculated using the figures in euro. The comparative figures for 2020 are revised to allow a fair comparison.
The sub-ranking of the industries with the highest return on revenue was calculated by dividing the cumulative net profit/loss within each industry by the cumulative revenue.
We have based our rankings on an industry classification which treats filling station operators and gas trading/distribution companies as Petroleum/Natural Gas companies, pharmacies and pharmaceutical distributors as Wholesale/Retail, and automotive and car parts manufacturers, and sellers as Automobiles.

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