Hi-tech adds up to high performance

Computers dominate the Independent 100 and Middle Market 50 listings of fast-growing companies. Roger Trapp reports

To most people, Brentford is a part of west London best known for a brand of furnishings promoted by the DJ Alan Freeman. But it is a centre of entrepreneurial energy.

Not only is Pet Plan Group, the vets' bills insurance company that has appeared in the Independent 100 list of fastest-growing companies for five consecutive years, based there. Two computer companies that feature strongly in the Middle Market 50 also operate from the suburb by the Thames.

The presence of Morse Group and Orion Group in the upper reaches of the rankings produced by the Independent on Sunday in association with accountant Price Waterhouse does much to allay the impression that the computer sector is not as dominant as in previous years.

For all the attention given to Carphone Warehouse, placed first in the overall listing, and Caudwell Subsidiary Holdings and The Peoples Phone Company, first and second in the Middle Market, the computer sector still accounts for the largest share of entrants. In the main listing the number rose from last year's 20 to 21, while in the Middle Market ranking, established by Price Waterhouse to recognise the achievement of companies that had at least pounds 5m of sales in the first year of the five-year period, it remained steady at 10.

Despite falling from its top spot in the 1995 Middle Market 50, third- placed Morse, which was 25th in the main table, continues to expand at a strong rate. Last year's sales were held back, says managing director Nick Read, by freezes on capital spending among the US investment banks that are among its key customers. But since the turn of the year the business, which saw turnover rise at an annual compound rate of 53.1 per cent to nearly pounds 65m in the five years to June 1995, has "come out of that with a vengeance".

In recent months Morse, which has sought to protect itself from the falling prices by providing steadily larger and more expensive computer systems, changed its ownership. Mr Read and his fellow executives bought the company from retiring chairman John Britten with the support of 3i and the venture capital arms of the Prudential and NatWest.

Neighbour Orion, which was placed 26th in the main listing and fourth in the Middle Market by achieving compound annual sales growth of 53 per cent a year, is in the business of computer supplies.

Orion has built itself into one of the country's largest distributors of accessories for computers made by such well-known names as Digital, Hewlett-Packard and IBM. The company has five locations around the country and its workforce has grown to about 200.

Managing director Damien Griffin says the business is still growing, with turnover set to grow from last year's pounds 65.2m to about pounds 80m this year. He sees the basis of the company's success as its decision to be a "one- stop shop" for all the leading brands.

But it is not just Brentford that is a hotbed of activity for computer companies. Yorkshire has produced its share, with seventh-placed Spectrum Computer Services and eighth-ranked Integrated Technology (Europe) leading the way.

Bradford-based Spectrum, run by managing director Barry Burns, is in a variety of areas of the computer business. Having started in software and bureau services, it now also supplies systems for the health, local government and education sectors.It has lifted turnover and profits to the point where it last year achieved sales of nearly pounds 33.5m.

ITE was started in early 1985 by Andrew Kaberry and Peter Wilkinson, who had been finance director and international operations director of computer services company Systime. When a US company took it over and decided that they were part of the old guard, they left and started concentrating on computer hardware. With turnover rising at a compound annual rate of 42.4 per cent over the five years to last year, sales have now reached pounds 39.3m. ITE has stuck to supplying large companies in its own area as well as international corporations, such as Barclays Bank, and supplying the top end of the distribution trade.

Though the company has hitherto been self-financed, the founders recently sold a third of the company to Paul Sykes, the Yorkshire entrepreneur, as part of a plan to invest in Planet Online, an operation targeting businesses that want to get on to the Internet.

In return, Mr Sykes, who is said to be worth about pounds 250m, has become chairman of the company.

Life and Style
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Melissa and Joan Rivers together at an NBC event in May 2014
peopleDaughter Melissa thanks fans for 'outpouring of support'
Life and Style
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
Life and Style
One in six drivers cannot identify a single one of the main components found under the bonnet of an average car
motoringOne in six drivers can't carry out basic under-bonnet checks
Fungi pose the biggest threat globally and in the UK, where they threaten the country’s wheat and potato harvests
environmentCrop pests are 'grave threat to global food security'
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash
tvSimon Cowell blasts BBC for breaking 'gentlemen's agreement' in scheduling war
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
peopleWrestling veteran drifting in and out of consciousness
Arts and Entertainment
Shady character: Jon Hamm as sports agent JB Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm
filmReview: Jon Hamm finally finds the right role on the big screen in Million Dollar Arm
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
footballAnd Liverpool are happy despite drawing European champions
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Consultants - IT - Trainee / Experienced

£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £40-50K first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

Head of Marketing (Online & Offline, Media, Digital, Strategy)

£85000 - £100000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing - Slough, Berkshi...

Database Developer (SSIS, TSQL, Microsoft SQL) London Finance

£35000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global global asset management ...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone