Local firms join profit growth elite

SEVEN top-performing Suffolk and Essex firms feature in a list of the top 100 private companies with the fastest-growing profits in the UK. The Sunday Times Profit Track 100 list features companies whose profit has grown by more than 50% a year for three consecutive years.

SEVEN top-performing Suffolk and Essex firms feature in a list of the top 100 private companies with the fastest-growing profits in the UK.

The Sunday Times Profit Track 100 list features companies whose profit has grown by more than 50% a year for three consecutive years.

Among them this year is Norwich City Football Club, in eighth place with 122% annual growth and £9million profits in 2004-05 as a result of its brief spell in the premiership.

Under its Suffolk-based majority shareholder, TV cook Delia Smith, catering has become part of a drive towards maximising income from activities off the pitch, with weddings and banquets catered for at the club premises. However, profits are expected to drop next year following the club's relegation.

Top of the national list is Hesco Bastion, based in Leeds, which makes defence barriers and was set up by former Yorkshire coalminer James Heselden. He dreamt up a new version of the sandbag which has transformed military field fortifications and earned him contracts with NATO and governments worldwide.

Suffolk companies featured are Felixstowe haulier Hanbury Holdings, and Bury St Edmunds-based housebuilder Bennett Homes, which are 75th and 91st respectively.

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Hanbury has 520 vehicles distributing goods, and its customers include food group Mueller.

After Glyn Davies, Ian Wilson and Phil West sold their first distribution business to Securicor for £58million in 1995, they used the proceeds to set up a second business, Hanbury Holdings, intending to buy poorly-performing haulage businesses and turn them around. Profits have risen from £947,000 in 2002, to £3.7million in 2005.

Bennett Homes, which operates from a converted barn in Bury St Edmunds, builds on “problem” plots bought at big discounts. Thanks to this and a booming housing market, profits have increased 52% a year from £1.6million in 2001 to £5.5million in 2004. The company, chaired by Nigel Parker, caters principally for the retirement market.

In Essex, engine component maker Albon Engineering, from Rochford, comes in at 33rd, with oil equipment supplier LFF Group, Basildon, and petrol station operator Malthurst, based at Romford, at 46th and 47th respectively.

Founded in 1970, Laurence Albon borrowed £600 and launched Albon Engineering from a cattle shed. Albon now makes engine components for Renault and Volvo from two factories in Essex. Investment in new manufacturing equipment allowed it to cut staff, and this has helped boost profits by 80% from £1.3million in 2001 to £7.7million in 2004.

LFF Group, which supplies pipes, fittings and flanges to the oil, gas, power and water industries, was founded by Mark Prior, Stewart Poulten and Roberto Galperti in 1983. The surge in oil prices over the past two years helped to boost profits by 75% a year from £906,000 in 2001 to £4.9million in 2004.

Malthurst, which was also in last year's list in 43rd place, has more than quadrupled in size since 2002 after buying petrol stations from other operators. Last year, it bought 25 more from Fuelforce, taking its total to 150 nationwide, buying fuel from oil giants such as BP and Texaco and operating under their brands. Profits have grown 75% a year from £1.2million in 2002 to £6.6million in 2005.

Also in Essex, Jewellery concessions operator DCK Concessions, based in Billericay, came 80th, and steel stockholder Industrial Metal Services, Shoeburyness, came 97th.

DCK's jewellery designs are sent to factories across the Far East for fast production. It is a big supplier to Philip Green's Arcadia Group and has 3,400 concessions in stores such as Top Shop, Miss Selfridge and BHS, and is headed by Steve Longdon. Its profits have grown from £2.1million in 2002 to £7.9million in 2005.

Industrial Metal Services, founded in 1975, has benefited from a surge in steel prices, driven by demand from China. This helped boost profits at the steel stockholders by 50% a year from £1.4million in 2001 to £4.7million in 2004. It has a fleet of 60 vehicles and supplies 120,000 tonnes of metal annually to fabricators and car makers. It is headed by founders and owners Richard Eyre and Richard Rout.

In Cambridgeshire, farming produce supplier Spearhead International, parent company of Greens of Soham, was 50th in the list.

In Norfolk, Norwich City was joined by Norwich-based publisher The Stationary Office in 52nd place, loan broker Central Trust, also from Norwich, in 71st, compared with 30th last year, and another Norwich firm, electrical goods retailer Bennetts Retail, which has nine stores across East Anglia and 11 in total, in 100th place.