Firms savour strong year of growth as county’s economy thrives

Jul 17, 2019

Mike Hughes and Mitesh Tanna, authors of this year’s Bedfordshire Limited report produced by Grant Thornton.

BUSINESS have enjoyed a strong year of growth as they continue to prosper in a robust Bedfordshire economy, delivering increases in turnover, profitability and employment, according to a new report published today (Tuesday).

Since 2013, the annual Bedfordshire Limited report compiled by financial and business advisers Grant Thornton has analysed the performance of the 100 largest privately owned businesses in the county to provide a valuable insight into the overall health of the local economy.

This year, the study focuses on the leading 50 companies, regardless of ownership, to reflect the increasingly diverse structure of the region’s largest firms. The group comprises of four FTSE 100 companies, three unquoted private businesses, 42 private limited companies and one charitable organisation.

The 2019 report findings reveal combined turnover for the top 50 businesses grew by a healthy 12.9%. This performance was broadly consistent across the board with 37 of the 50 companies experiencing an overall increase. Profits rose at an even faster rate of 19.8%, with a quarter of firms enjoying growth of over 75%. Only one business in the report was lossmaking, demonstrating an impressive overall year for the top 50 companies.

The 2019 study also found employment in the county is on the up with the top 50 businesses growing their combined workforce by 8.3%. Average employee remuneration also increased, up 4.6%. This makes the high levels of profitability particularly impressive with the growing labour costs and expanded workforce.

Investment in fixed assets also rose by 10% which provides positive signals that firms are confident about future growth in their respective markets and the wider economy.

Mike Hughes of Grant Thornton’s Milton Keynes office, who led the report, said: “Overall it has been a very positive year for Bedfordshire businesses with high rates of growth and strong confidence levels across the board.

“The robust performance has partly been driven by a relatively favourable set of economic conditions with continued low interest rates, an increased willingness from banks to lend and high employment levels.

“Against a backdrop of political and economic uncertainty, including preparing to adapt to a new relationship with the EU and potential changes to custom arrangements, tariffs and regulations, alongside competing for access to key skills, these companies have shown they are willing to adapt and take advantage of the clear opportunities in the local economy.

“Bedfordshire’s leading businesses should be proud of this achievement which bodes well for future growth.”

The report’s co-author Mitesh Tanna, also based at Grant Thornton’s Milton Keynes office, added: “Brexit has, and continues to dominate the agenda but following the initial uncertainty after the vote to leave, many companies returned to a business as usual approach and this period has been extended due to the multiple delays to our departure. However, the picture has changed more recently as the prospect of ‘no deal’ becomes more likely.

“This concern may well now start to trickle through and be reflected in next year’s report. However, businesses can draw on the strong base they have created to weather any bumps in the road which can be overcome with proper planning for the different possible scenarios.”

For a full copy of the Bedfordshire Limited report, visit: https://www.grantthornton.co.uk/office-locations/milton-keynes/bedfordshire-limited/

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