Our fastest-growing small and medium-sized exporters are capitalising on continental opportunities, writes Richard Tyler – Export Track 100

Europe is the star for Britain’s fastest-growing small exporters, according to research from Fast Track. The second annual Sunday Times Heathrow SME Export Track 100 finds that 80 of the featured small and medium-sized enterprises cite Europe as a main overseas market.

This shows the importance of the trading bloc for British exporters ahead of the European referendum on June 23, as well as the business opportunities that exist on the Continent despite recent sluggish economic growth.

North America is the second most popular market for the fast-growing SMEs, with 71 focusing on the region, followed by 45 that cite Asia as a main market.

By country, the US is a main source of sales for two-thirds of the businesses, followed by Germany (27), Australia (25), France (21) and China (19).

The league table measures average annual international sales growth over the past two years; figures range from 33% for the business in 100th place to 357% for the top-ranked company, Black Swan Data, a developer of analytical software — and there has been a significant rise in the number of companies turning to outside investors to help fund this growth. Venture capital and private equity firms, as well as business angels, back almost a third of the companies, up from 231ast year. London-based software firm HighQ (No 32), for example, raised $50m (E35m) in January from investors including Goldman Sachs Private Capital to help expand overseas and diversify from the legal sector into financial services.

Official figures released last week show that in the fast quarter of this year the UK’s trade deficit was at its highest level since 2008. However, the pace of over-seas growth achieved by the companies in the league table is higher than last year exports increased by an annual average of 84%, up from 73%. Almost a quarter of the 100 companies achieved triple-digit growth, compared with 14 last year. The 100 businesses have increased total sales from £787m to £1.3bn in two years, with most of that down to the E438m rise in international sales.

Some of the companies have been trading for a long time, such as Birmingham-based Webster & Horsfall (No61), which was founded in 1720 and made the first transatlantic telegraph cable in 1866. It is still owned by the Horsfall family and now works with partners such as Birmingham University to develop its wire technologies for on and gas, pharmaceutical and automotive industries.

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We have achieved position 61 out of top Export Track 100.