Runners-up are on a roll

Top 100 Independent performers: A Phase of fast growth
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The Independent Online
Phase Devices of Bedfordshire is not a mobile telephone company but it might just as well be. As a maker of important components in the base stations that relay cellular phone signals around the country it has benefited from the booming market for portable communications devices.

Les Young, the finance director, says the company also supplies the satellite industry but that it was not until the explosion in mobile phones that the company took off. In the five years to March 1995 its sales grew at an annual rate of 84.7 per cent to more than pounds 7.5m, placing it third in our rankings. That sort of growth has continued, with turnover in the financial year just completed likely to be about pounds 12m in Britain and pounds 15m to pounds 16m worldwide.

The success story started in 1984 when the three founders (David Hoare, Paul Davies and Chris Radcliffe) grew tired of life in a large company and decided to "have a go" themselves.

All three are still there, as head of the company's Canadian business, operations director and technical director. But they have been joined by two others, Pravin Sood, the chief executive, and Mr Young.

It is not just sales that have grown. The workforce was only 19 in 1991, but by the end of the 1995 financial year there were more than 100 employees and there are now more than 300.

The setting up of a research and development operation in Asia is a sign of the company's determination to push itself forward. With the preponderance of mobile phone retailers in Britain, the management regards its domestic market as "fairly mature" and sees the Indian sub-continent as an important source of income in the medium term. Similarly, the decision to set up in Canada more than a year ago was prompted by the belief that there is more growth potential in this sector in North America than in some other territories.

Having obtained venture capital funding and then the support of a trade investor in the early days, the company has funded itself out of retained earnings since the early 1990s. But it is pondering the idea of seeking outside investment. "We see ourselves going for a float," says Mr Young, adding that this need not happen in Britain. (graphic omitted)

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