BGF research finds 2,000 South East businesses experience 16% combined turnover growth and responsible for 27,000 new jobs since 2015

A group of 2,063 SMEs headquartered in the South East represents the UK’s largest concentration of high potential businesses outside of London, according to new research by BGF, the UK and Ireland’s most active investor.

The research calculates growth through changes in turnover and employee size among Britain’s private companies with revenues between £3m and £150m, a category of 13,286 businesses nationwide, 16% of which are headquartered in the South East.

These South East businesses have experienced a 16% increase in combined turnover over the last three years, collectively generating £6.9bn in revenues and making the region the third fastest growing in the UK.

They have also been responsible for the creation of 27,000 jobs over the last three years, an combined increase in employees of more than eight per cent since 2015.

James Austin, an investor at BGF, said: “This research provides unique and fascinating insight into the activity and progress that businesses in the South East are experiencing. Having invested in the region since BGF was set up, we have met and worked with ambitious entrepreneurs across the South East.

“Despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the future of the business landscape, it’s crucial that we safeguard businesses like these by providing them with the backing they need to accelerate. The impact on the economy, industry and society when we unlock capital to fast-track growth could be significant.”

The data has been released as part of BGF’s ‘Ready for Business’ campaign, which will see BGF confidently advocate for continued growth, committing to entrepreneurs and investing in the age of uncertainty.

County highlights include:

  • 177 businesses based in Oxfordshire boast the UK’s second highest combined turnover growth, at 21.5 percent. It is also the UK’s fastest growing employer with 75 percent of businesses actively hiring
  • More than three-quarters of the 335 SMEs in this group based in Hampshire (77 percent) have grown their turnover over the last three years
  • Surrey boasts the largest concentration of businesses generating £3m – £150m revenues in the South East, with 411 high potential companies based there
  • Kent has the second highest concentration of high potential SMEs in the South East, employing 67,000 people

Reading headquartered Bullitt Group, a global provider of rugged mobile handsets, was backed by BGF in 2012.  The business has grown from revenues of £5m to more than £100m with Bullitt products being used in over 100 countries worldwide.

Dave Floyd, co-founder of the Bullitt Group, commented on their choice of location for the business: “The Thames Valley, and the South East in general, has increasingly become a great place for growth companies. We started Bullitt Group here in 2009 and it was definitely the right choice for our rapid growth story.”

Dr Norbert Morawetz, Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurial Learning at Henley Business School, said: “The South East is a diverse region, but this latest research from BGF shows that it shares a distinct economic vibrancy that is particularly beneficial for SME growth.

“As a business school at the heart of the M25/Thames Valley entrepreneurial ecosystem, we see the full spectrum of benefits of SME wealth creation to our communities, driving innovation, providing high-value added opportunities for professionals.”

BGF’s ‘Ready for Business’ report is available to download here. The research looks at publicly-reported data. Given current reporting thresholds, this group of companies is likely to be much larger – BGF’s proprietary database indicates that there could be an additional 4,000 companies, increasing the size of this group by 30%.

BGF, the UK and Ireland’s most active investor, was founded in 2011 specifically to address a long-standing gap in equity funding directed into companies that have outgrown friends, family or angel funding but are not typically large enough to be courted by traditional private equity. BGF has invested £1.9bn in more than 270 companies since 2011, three quarters of which are based outside London and the South East.

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