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Delight as Bedfordshire business outperforms UK economy

Profit and employment levels have increased significantly over the past 12 months, according to the annual Bedfordshire Limited study, conducted by financial and business advisers Grant Thornton and which provides an in-depth financial analysis based on 100 of the largest companies owned and managed within Bedfordshire.

The findings of the 2015 report, unveiled to more than 100 Bedfordshire business leaders at a breakfast event at Woburn Abbey’s Sculpture Gallery, showed that combined turnover grew by 10.6% to £4.13 billion, four times higher than the 2.6% GDP growth for the UK economy as a whole over the same period.

Operating profits increased by a significant 50.1% to £309 million, highlighting how businesses in the survey have been converting their turnover into profit through improving their margins and controlling their overheads.

Gearing, an indication of the level of borrowing, fell by 16.1% as Bedfordshire businesses have been using profits to pay down their debts while also investing in new staff, demonstrated by the 7.1% increase in employment levels to 25,052 staff.

The Bedfordshire Limited study was based on the latest company accounts available and so relates mainly to a period when the UK was beginning to show signs of growth but was also starting to anticipate the general election held in May.

Speaking at the results event, Steve White of Grant Thornton’s St Albans Space, said: “This year’s results indicate Bedfordshire’s largest businesses have performed extremely well, outstripping the growth rate of the UK economy as a whole by more than four times.

"This year’s results also show that Bedfordshire companies are converting their turnover into profit and using this to invest in their workforce and pay down their debts.”

The report is a recognised barometer of Bedfordshire’s overall economic performance.

The Bedfordshire Limited report also analysed the financial data by sector. Eight out of the nine sectors grew turnover with Property & Construction leading the way with growth of 27% followed by the Technology sector with 22.6%.

The healthy growth in turnover is also backed by significant increases in operating profit across eight of the nine sectors. The largest increases were seen in Freight, Logistics & Aviation (156.3%) and Technology (93.1%).

Employment levels also grew in most sectors with Property & Construction seeing the biggest increase of 19.2% followed by Business Support Services with 14.9%.

Mr White said: “We have seen a strong performance across all sectors which demonstrates that Bedfordshire is a fantastic place to do business, with strong transport links across the region.

“Over the next year we expect to see continued growth in turnover and profitability as well as an increase in wages. However, in the short term, there will be some business uncertainty surrounding Britain’s membership of the EU ahead of the referendum.”

During the event held at The Sculpture Gallery in Woburn, London Luton Airport chief executive Nick Barton gave his views on the report and shared details of the £100 million redevelopment project which will increase the airport’s capacity by 50%.

He is pictured (left) with Steve White and Grant Thornton partner Jeremy Read (centre). For a copy of the Bedfordshire Limited report, contact Grant Thornton at eve.moore@uk.gt.com 

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