Corporate profiteering soars an astonishing 89% compared to pre-pandemic levels

New Unite report exposes the unbridled profiteering behind the cost-of-living crisis.

17 Mar 2023| News

Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda made combined profits of £3.2 billion in 2021, nearly double pre-pandemic levels.

Politicians and the Bank of England largely ignore the crisis – time they woke up to corporate greed engulfing the economy

New Unite research, analysing the FTSE 350 shows how profit margins for the first half of 2022 were 89% higher compared to the same period in 2019.

FTSE 350 profits have spiked even higher than in 2021 where profits jumped 73%, according to Unite’s first profiteering report, published in July 2022.

Unite’s latest report on profiteering across the economy, is the first to show how runaway profiteering has driven up the price of everyday household goods.

Profiteering is a reflection of Britain’s broken economy. From price gouging to state-licensed monopolies in energy and utilities, to supply crunches and demand jumps, the choices made by corporations are revealed to have caused historic “price spiralling” – and governments are letting them do it.

It’s not just happening in the energy industry. The top three supermarkets – Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda made combined profits of £3.2 billion in 2021, nearly double pre-pandemic levels (see notes to editors below).

Sharon Graham, Unite General Secretary, said:

“We’re in the midst of a cost of profiteering crisis. Our new research exposes where and how the economy is being rigged against workers –  from supermarkets to energy bills, oil refineries to transport, we’re all paying the price.

The profiteering crisis isn’t just a few bad apples, it’s systemic across our broken economy. Entire industries are choosing to take advantage of a crisis, resulting in the spiralling prices of goods we all need.

When the profits of Britain’s biggest firms have spiked 89 per cent don’t tell me the money isn’t there for the pay rises workers need and deserve.

It’s only by taking on runaway profiteering that we can end the cost of living crisis. Politicians can make different choices. It is high time they woke up to the corporate greed that is engulfing every sector of the British economy and challenged it by taking on the profiteers”.

‘Unite Investigates’ team takes a forensic look at where profiteering is happening, examining evidence from energy, oil & petrol, food, automotive, road freight and shipping.

Profiteering Report Briefing : March 2023

  • In 2022 the profits of the 350 largest companies in Britain have increased by 89%* compared to 2019 pre pandemic levels –  the money is there to pay workers what they are owed. Taking on profiteering ends the false choice of pay rises or austerity. (FTSE 350 companies: 2019 to the first half of 2022.)

Industry examples: Unite Investigates analysed the industries which together have the biggest impact on inflation to find evidence of significant profit increases since the pandemic

Industry Profit increase
Big 8 Shipping firms 20,650%
Oil refineries (profits per barrel) 366%
Food (Agribusiness) 255%
Big 4’ Energy 84%


Industry Profit increase
Food (Supermarkets) The top three supermarkets – Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda – between them sell over half the UK’s groceries. They made combined profits of £3.2 billion in 2021, nearly double pre-pandemic levels.
Food (Manufacturing) Eight of the UK’s top food manufacturers made a combined profit of £22.9 billion, up 21% since before the pandemic.


(Associated British Foods, Hilton Food Group, Arla Foods, Unilever, Cranswick, , Mondelez UK, Bakkavor, Nestle)

Food (Agribusiness) The four giant agribusiness corporations – ADM, Bunge, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus – dominate key commodities. They made $10.4 billionup 255%.
Energy (Networks) The UK’s electricity and gas grids are run by private monopolies which made a combined profit of £6.3 billion – with operating margins over 40%. Companies include National Grid, UK Power Networks, SSE, Cadent Gas
Energy (Generators and Suppliers) The top four energy providers made combined profits of £9.5 billion, up 84% on 2019. (Centrica, E.ON, EDF and Scottish Power)
Oil and Gas The top global oil companies made £174.5 billion in 2021, 37% higher than before the pandemic. (Includes, BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil, Conoco Phillips, Saudi Aramco.)
Refineries Profits per barrel jumped 366% between June 2021 and June 2022

(Includes, Exxon Mobil, Valero, State Oil Limited, Phillips 66, Essar, Petroineos Refining Limited)

Transport Logistics The UK’s top 100 road freight companies jumped up, on average, 67% compared to before the pandemic.

(Includes Deutsche Post AG (DHL), Wincanton, XPO, Fed Ex, UPS)

Container Shipping 8 big companies made a combined £62 billion in profit, up 20,650%. (Includes Maersk, CMA, Cosco, Hapag-Lloyd, Evergreen.)
Ports Four of the major port companies reported profit margins between 11% and 24%

(Peel Ports, DP World, Hutchison Ports, APB)

Manufacturing The top ten producers of semiconductors made a combined profit of £44 billion – up 96% compared to 2019.

(Includes BMW, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Samsung)