Business: British companies `inspiring'

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The Independent Online
A multi-media company, a phone retailer, a double-glazing maker, a fish freezer and a toy distributor were among those that topped a survey of Britain's fastest growing companies.

Topping the Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 league table was multi- media company Eyretel, which produces digital voice recording equipment used by call centres, emergency services and financial trading rooms.

The survey was conducted by entrepreneur and academic Hamish Stevenson. Dr Stevenson is the Virgin Atlantic Research Fellow in Entrepreneurship at Templeton College, Oxford University.

For his study, he ranked companies by their compound annual sales growth between 1993 and 1996. Horsham-based Eyretel, set up in 1990 by Roger Keenan, saw its turnover grow by a staggering 215 per cent year on year over the past three years. Among the other companies included in the top 10 of the Fast Track 100 were mobile phone retailer DX Communications of Glasgow, fisher freezer Simpson DR (Chilled Foods) of Hull, computer assembler Roldec Systems of Wolverhampton, and toy distributor Vivid Imaginations of Haslemere.

Richard Branson, the Virgin chief, said: "The report is inspiring. Reading through it for the first time, I was amazed by the sheer range of companies. I find it enormously encouraging that British entrepreneurs are exploring every avenue in providing quality products and services to their customers." Companies were judged on their annual compound growth rate, with minimum sales of pounds 250,000 in 1993 and minimum sales of pounds 3m in 1996.

Between them, they increased their combined sales nearly seven-fold between 1993 and 1996, with an average growth rate of 100 per cent. Their combined turnover in 1997 is forecast to exceed pounds 2.7bn and the firms have seen a fivefold increase in their combined workforce over the past three years to 12,500 new jobs. Mr Branson added: "All of the Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 companies have achieved mouth-watering turnover growth." The research was co-sponsered by Coopers & Lybrand and Mercury Asset Management.