Top businesses are in much better shape, says report

Steve White  (left) and Jeremy Read (right), both of Grant Thornton, with guest speaker Tom Grundy of Hybrid Air Vehicles, hold the "Bedfordshire Ltd" report at the business event at Woburn Abbey.  ''Photograph by Martin Neeves Photography -
Steve White (left) and Jeremy Read (right), both of Grant Thornton, with guest speaker Tom Grundy of Hybrid Air Vehicles, hold the "Bedfordshire Ltd" report at the business event at Woburn Abbey. ''Photograph by Martin Neeves Photography -

A new report has revealed that Bedfordshire’s top 100 businesses are in much better shape than this time last year, showing excellent growth in profitability with earnings up 13%.

The Bedfordshire Limited report, compiled by business and financial advisers Grant Thornton, uses the latest company accounts available for the county’s 100 largest privately owned companies selected on turnover and trading address, to provide an in-depth health-check of Bedfordshire’s business community.

The results were announced to more than 80 business leaders at a breakfast event at Woburn Abbey Sculpture Gallery and paint a much more positive picture than last year’s inaugural report which showed Bedfordshire businesses working through a challenging economic climate.

In comparison, Bedfordshire Limited 2014 shows excellent overall performance and highlights that, unusually, Bedfordshire’s small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) are performing as strongly as larger corporates.

Leighton Buzzard companies pull their weight in Bedfordshire’s top 100 companies with seven businesses included – Mini Clipper Limited, Polar Speed Distribution Limited, Pledge Office Chairs Limited, Friction Marketing Company Limited, FAI Automotive PLC, George Browns Limited, and Polyformes Limited.

Headline figures

> Combined turnover increased by 2.8% to £2.8 billion

> Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), a measure of cash generation, increased 13.2% to £191 million

> Employment has risen 0.8%

> Average employee remuneration increased 2.7% to £32,074.

Jeremy Read, partner at Grant Thornton leading the report, said: “The Bedfordshire Limited results are extremely impressive and show a strong performance across the board. Double digit growth in earnings of 13% is well above the national average, and from our analysis of neighbouring counties, Bedfordshire is also outperforming in this area at a regional level.

“This strong performance in profitability compared to an increase in turnover of 2.8% shows that local businesses have been incredibly savvy in taking the right steps to safeguard their businesses during the recession and have emerged in great shape.

“Although employment hasn’t seen a dramatic increase at this point, employment growth has been steady in the county. However, a 3.5% rise in remuneration costs indicates that availability of labour may be a future issue.”

The Bedfordshire Limited report also includes a breakdown of the financial data by sector and shows Automotive & Motor Retail, Property & Construction and Technology as leading the way in sector growth. In terms of profitability, Business Support Services, Food, Drink & Leisure, Property & Construction and Technology have all delivered good profitability. Particularly strong are Property & Construction and Technology standing out with 60% and 53% increase in earnings respectively.

Mr Read said: “What is unusual about Bedfordshire is that the 84 SMEs (less than £50 million turnover with no more than 250 employees) in the report have displayed a significant 13% rise in earnings against only a 1% increase in turnover. This highlights a strong improvement in productivity within this community and, importantly, has been delivered against a backdrop of increased employment within the SME sector. This demonstrates once again the importance of the SME base as the bedrock of the local economy.

“The key message from this report is that Bedfordshire has moved on significantly in the last 12 months – the results really are very impressive. We’re keen to see what next year will bring for the Bedfordshire economy but feel confident that the strong performance will continue.”