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Cautious optimism’ is the verdict as report highlights county’s top 100 firms


More than 100 business leaders heard the results of Bedfordshire Limited, the first ever in-depth survey into the performance of the county’s top 100 companies, at a breakfast seminar organised by business and financial advisors Grant Thornton.
Bedfordshire Limited provides a detailed financial analysis of the county’s 100 largest companies which are both privately owned and managed.
The report showed that the combined annual turnover of Bedfordshire’s top 100 businesses increased by 3% from £2,770m to £2,854m, while Earnings before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation has fallen from £234 million to £203 million, a year-on-year decline of 13.3%.
The study was based on the latest company accounts available and highlights how Bedfordshire businesses are performing strongly in a difficult economic climate.
Bedfordshire Limited’s consolidated balance sheet improved impressively with net assets rising by some 2.3%. This growth has been primarily driven by a de-gearing of businesses rather than an investment led story with key working capital metrics improving slightly.
Overall interest payable declined significantly by 24.7% from £58.1 million to £43.9 million.
Overall employment numbers in Bedfordshire Limited have decreased by 1.7% to 20,868, but average earnings for those employed across the 100 companies have increased by 5.3% from £27,657 to £29,135.
Additionally, a review of the county’s balance sheet, appears to indicate that a large number of companies remain focused on decreasing debt. However, most SMEs have shown some appetite for growth evidenced by some investment in fixed assets.
Presenting the findings, Grant Thornton partner Jeremy Read (pictured) said: “The results for Bedfordshire Limited paint a mixed picture with turnover increasing and balance sheets strengthening but other key metrics such as profitability and employment under pressure.
“This does not adequately tell the full story however, as a closer examination of the data highlights a more robust performance by the county’s entrepreneurial businesses distorted by some significant movements from some of the larger businesses in the county.
“This overview indicates a county that has been resilient in trading through the downturn and is heading for recovery. “
The Bedfordshire Limited report also analysed a breakdown of the financial data by sector.
Despite a challenging environment, firms in the technology sector saw the largest growth in turnover with a 21.2% increase year on year.
Other notable sectors were freight, logistics and aviation which grew 14.4%, automotive, by 9.9%, and agriculture with a rise of 6.2%.
Consumer-led sectors such as food, drink, leisure, retail and wholesale remain under pressure however, reflecting the continuing pressures that consumers felt during 2012, driven by inflation, wage restraint and tax rises.

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