South East: 17 companies in region ranked in Top Track 100

Published this weekend, the 18th annual Sunday Times HSBC Top Track 100 league table ranks Britain’s 100 private companies with the biggest sales.

The 17 companies headquartered in the southeast of England have made a significant contribution to the regional economy. Together they achieved sales of £23 billion and profits of £3.2b in their latest financial year, and employ more than 150,000 people.

The region’s top-ranked company is MFG (No 9), which became one of the largest petrol station operators in the UK after it acquired rival operator MRH for £1.2bn last year. It now has 898 stations operating under the BP, Shell, Esso, Texaco, JET and Murco brands, with sales of £3.4bn.

Achieving a place on the league table for the first time is Reigate-based insurance firm Esure (No 74), which was delisted last year by Bain Capital, which bought the company in a £1.2bn deal. The company is still led by its founder, Sir Peter Wood who also set up Direct Line.

Other companies featured include Reading-based WSH (No 76), the hospitality services provider, which runs cafes at attractions such as Edinburgh Castle and London’s Natural History Museum. Founder Alastair Storey sold a majority stake to US private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice in March for an undisclosed sum.

The companies in the southeast of England appear alongside well-known British names, including bet365, Clarks, Iceland, JCB, John Lewis Partnership, Nando’s and Specsavers.

This year, the 100 companies reached a record £220b in total sales, up 14% on the prior year, with total profits of £24.6b, up by 15%. Almost four in five companies (78) increased sales in their latest financial year.

The league table programme is sponsored by HSBC, Linklaters and PwC, and compiled by Fast Track, the Oxford-based research and networking events firm.

Amanda Murphy, head of commercial banking, HSBC UK, commented: “Once again, Britain’s most ambitious private enterprises have shown their mettle by shrugging off uncertainty, growing their combined sales 14% to a record £220b. It’s reassuring that UK businesses are navigating change so confidently and the companies in the Top Track 100 are an inspiration to all. The 17 companies in the southeast are the kinds of firms that provide the backbone of our economy, and we at HSBC UK are thrilled to see them thrive.”

Biggest private companies in the southeast of England, by county and rank

HQ location County Rank

[2018 rank]

Company

Activity

Sales £m Profits£m Staff Year end Main shareholders
Toddington

Bedfordshire

94

[83]

Moto

Motorway services operator

793 104 5,346 Dec 18 Universities Superannuation Scheme (60%), CVC (40%)
Reading

Berkshire

21

[21]

Westcoast

Technology distributor

2,465 31 1,372 Dec 18 Joe Hemani (100%)
Reading

Berkshire

26

[24]

Thames Water (Kemble)

Water services provider

2,045 1,075 5,426 Mar 18 Consortium of investors, including OMERS (32%), USS (11%), ADIA (10%), others (47%)
Reading

Berkshire

77

[75]

WSH

Hospitality services provider

*877 *69 17,037 Dec 18 Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, Alastair Storey and management
Central London

Hampshire

65

[64]

Arqiva

Communications services provider

974 522 2,088 Jun 18 Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (48%), Macquarie (25%), other investors (27%)
St Albans

Hertfordshire

9

[6]

MFG

Fuel forecourt operator

*3,378 *204 444 Dec 18 Clayton Dubilier & Rice (>50%), management inc. Alasdair Locke (<50%)
Letchworth Garden City

Hertfordshire

39

[39]

Willmott Dixon

Construction contractor

1,462 41 3,059 Dec 18 Family & management (100%)
Watford

Hertfordshire

46

[47]

Rontec

Roadside retailer

1,251 40 116 Sep 18 Ronson Family Trusts / Charitable Foundation (100%)
Turnford

Hertfordshire

47

[55]

Lamex Food Group

Food importer and exporter

1,236 23 483 Mar 18 Phil Wallace & family trusts (24%), Steve Anderson (24%), Colin Dicker & family trusts (16%), others (36%)
Stevenage

Hertfordshire

52

[59]

M Group Services

Infrastructure services provider

*1,170 *64 8,100 Mar 19 PAI Partners (85%), management (15%)
Hemel Hempstead

Hertfordshire

58

[57]

Bourne Leisure

Caravan park operator

*1,058 *251 14,028 Dec 18 Peter Harris, families of the late John Cook and David Allen, management
Hemel Hempstead

Hertfordshire

78

[72]

Sir Robert McAlpine

Construction contractor

871 31 2,182 Oct 18 McAlpine family (100%)
Leatherhead

Surrey

37

[35]

Wates

Construction contractor

1,501 30 3,897 Dec 18 Wates family (100%)
Woking

Surrey

45

[71]

McLaren Group

Automotive technology group

1,257 149 3,798 Dec 18 Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company (57.8%), TAG Group (14.7%), Michael Latifi (7.7%), others (19.9%)
Reigate

Surrey

75

[ – ]

esure

Insurance provider

894 4 1,989 Dec 18 Bain Capital and other institutional investors (>50%), management and other (<50%)
Crawley

West Sussex

67

[58]

OCS Group

Facilities services provider

961 31 79,117 Dec 18 Goodliffe family (100%)
Worthing

West Sussex

86

[78]

Southern Water

Water services provider

830 496 2,289 Mar 18 JP Morgan (40%), UBS Global (22%), Hermes (21%), others (17%)

‡ Profits = EBITDA (Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation)

* Supplied by the company