With a combined turnover of £13.5 billion, the 2017 Solent 250 is a story of success and growth – and a positive statement of the economy of the region
The annual listing – compiled by The Business Magazine and sponsored by law firm Irwin Mitchell and HSBC bank – groups by turnover private unquoted companies across the Solent and South Coast.
By virtue of the sales of high-value goods, car dealerships feature strongly in the 250 – with six companies in the top 20. Hendy Group (number 3), Westover Group (6), Snows Motor Group (9), Sandown Motors (11), Heritage Automotive (16) and Foray Motor Group (20) are testament to the strength of the sector in the south.
The property sector is also well represented, with Churchill Retirement the highest at 12, while the growing market for products and services for the ageing population sees Stannah Lifts at number eight.
Top of the list is Arqiva, the TV and radio broadcast specialist, headquartered at Winchester. Founded in 2005, and now employing more than 2,000 people, Arqiva operates at the heart of TV, radio, mobile and telecoms, WiFi, secure solutions, smart and Internet of Things (IoT) industries.
The company boasts that 98.5% of the UK population enjoys its TV services, and it has installed 16,000 telecoms towers across the country. Smart metering has been part of the growth, with Arqiva networks now covering 12 million UK premises.
Food retailer and funeral business Southern Co-operative is at number two in the list. Sales here have risen from over £350 million to nearly £367m. The company, established in Portsmouth more than 140 years ago, now runs 250 community stores and funeral homes across 11 counties in southern England.
While sales at Southern Co-operative have increased, with 11 new retail stores opening, the company plans to open about 20 more stores in the current financial year, and to grow its offering of convenience food at petrol forecourts.
Hendy Group, at number three, has a family heritage stretching back more than 150 years. Today, its geographic reach stretches across the South Coast, and marques include Ford, Kia, Mazda, Honda, MG, Iveco, Renault, SEAT, Dacia, Suzuki and Isuzu.
Last year was a milestone year for Hendy with the acquisition of Lifestyle Motor Group. The deal was expected to place Hendy in the top 25 of dealer groups in the country, and turnover, which will be seen in next year’s Solent 250, will jump to £600m.
A number of companies in the 250 are backed by private equity. Bridgepoint supports Fat Face, Wiggle and Hobbycraft; Carlyle supports Innovation Group; Electra supports Knight Square; Juggernaut backs Ceuta Healthcare; Dunedin backs Formaplex, and Sovereign supports Hillcrest Care. Safety & Survival Systems International is backed by August Private Equity, while Imagine Publishing is supported by Apax. Farrow & Ball – which celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2016 – is backed by Ares, the initial investment for the paints and wallpaper retailer coming in 2014.
The Solent 250 will be celebrated at a special dinner at Lainston House, near Winchester, on March 21. Guest speakers include Mark Berrisford-Smith, HSBC economist, and Spencer McCarthy, chairman and CEO of Churchill Retirement Living.
Businesses that would like to attend should email Linda Morse at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2017 Solent 250 excludes some companies featured last year as further research has revealed foreign ownership, public placement of shares, or that the company is a subsidiary of a group headquartered elsewhere.