BGF Team

NI’s High-Potential SMEs Ranked Number One For Growth

Andrew Kelly Corporate

Northern Ireland has been ranked the number one UK region for business growth, thanks to the strong performance of a group of high potential businesses based there experiencing £1.4bn of combined turnover growth in the last three years according to new research released today by BGF, the UK and Ireland’s most active equity investor.

For the first time, the research calculates growth through changes in turnover and employee size among the UK’s private companies with revenues between £3m and £150m, a category of 13,286 businesses nationwide.

Across the six counties of Northern Ireland, BGF identified close to 400 high potential companies in this turnover range, 81 percent of which have increased their revenues during the last three years, the highest proportion of growing companies in the UK. Collectively, these companies have experienced 17 percent turnover growth since 2015, higher than the UK average (15 percent).

More than 7 in 10 businesses in this group are actively hiring (71 percent), increasing their combined workforce by 3,918 employees – on average 25 people per week – since 2015, also the highest proportion among the UK regions.

Paddy Graham, Head of Central Scotland and Northern Ireland at BGF, said: “Over the past three years, Northern Ireland businesses have faced a lot of uncertainty, with unresolved issues such as Brexit and the restoration of local government at Stormont undoubtedly having some impact on overall growth in the economy.

“But this research shows a group of businesses here which have not just grown strongly but have actually outstripped their peers in other regions of the UK. While the numbers of local businesses in our target range is relatively low compared to some other UK regions, it is hugely positive that so many of them are posting such robust financial numbers.”

The research also showed surprising results for Northern Ireland regions where economic growth has previously been low and unemployment high. 84 percent of the 45 businesses in Co Londonderry grew their turnover since 2015. County Londonderry has experienced the UK’s highest combined turnover growth (26 percent) in the last three years.

“These figures show that, even in challenging market conditions, there are ambitious management teams in Northern Ireland who are creating jobs and looking for growth opportunities,” added Paddy Graham. “BGF’s portfolio is included in the data set and we’ve supported them in their drive to grow. We want to actively engage with more of these growing companies and to support their plans.”

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

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 percent.

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