Blackfriar: Small, nimble, reliable – the trademark of our winners

It is heartening to see that Yorkshire is maintaining its position as the UK’s biggest financial centre outside the capital, as shown by our latest analysis of the YPQuoted Index, which charted the performance of Yorkshire’s 50 biggest PLCs during 2013.

Yorkshire’s listed companies outperformed the FTSE All Share index last year and the county’s leading PLCs are expected to continue this strong rally in 2014.

Brewin Dolphin, which charts Yorkshire’s 50 biggest PLCs for the YP, said the YPQuoted Index of shares made a capital return of over 30 per cent last year, soundly beating the FTSE All Share Index’s 17 per cent increase.

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Of the 50 stocks in the YPQuoted Index, 41 posted positive returns with just nine posting negative returns.

So what can be gleaned from our top performers?

Well they may be tiddlers compared with the market caps of blue chip companies, but their returns in 2013 thrashed nearly every member of the FTSE 100.

The one thing our top three performers have in common is that despite their size, they all serve blue chip customers.

Yorkshire’s top performer was Sheffield-based engineer Pressure Technologies, which enjoyed a 169 per cent increase.

The company, which makes gas cylinders for oil rigs, counts the Royal Navy and the US Air Force among its customers, reinforcing its position as a world class operator.

The second best performer was Sheffield-based software firm WANdisco, which saw a 154 per cent increase.

Its customers include an impressive array of household names such as Nokia, Sony, Apple, Fujitsu, HP, Intel, Barclays, McAfee, Honda and Asda’s parent company Wal-Mart.

The third best performer was Leeds-based engineer Renew Holdings, which enjoyed a 106 per cent increase in share price.

The group counts Sellafield nuclear plant, Northumbrian Water and Network Rail among its biggest clients and works in areas where safety cannot be compromised.

Their success shows that you don’t need to be big yourself – in fact small, nimble, reliable and niche is the trademark of all these Yorkshire winners.

An analysis of the top 25 firms showed that Yorkshire’s most successful PLCs were based in Leeds and Sheffield. Both produced five top performers each.

Leeds is home to Renew Holdings, Getech, Filtronic, WYG and Communisis.

Over the past five years Sheffield has powered ahead and now boasts high tech firms like Pressure Technologies, WANdisco and ITM Power alongside stalwarts like SIG and Henry Boot in the top 25.

Sheffield has come from nowhere over the last 10 years to match Leeds’ performance and much of this is down to the expertise of its academics and the enthusiasm of its entrepreneurs.

York produced two of the top 25 with Persimmon and Tissue Regenix, as did Hull with KCom and Cranswick, Harrogate with Vp and Mobile Tornado, while Wetherby punched above its weight producing two winners with Augean and Proactis.

The other members of the top 25 were Billington Holdings in Barnsley, Marshalls in Huddersfield, Drax in North Yorkshire, 600 Group in Heckmondwike and Coalfield Resources in Doncaster.

Bradford had two, Pace based in Saltaire, and Dart Group, which is based at Leeds/Bradford airport.

Its biggest firm Morrisons suffered a tough year, but as the supermarket chain prepares to launch its online service tomorrow, analysts believe 2014 will be a much kinder year.

Bradford’s other major player Provident Financial reported a 16.6 per cent increase over the year – a credible performance but not good enough to enter the YPQuoted top 25.

Proactis came in in 25th place in the index with a share increase of 32.1 per cent, which shows just how well Yorkshire’s PLCs performed in 2013.

As with the FTSE, firms that saw a fall in market capitalisation were replaced by better performing companies.

This meant that Rotherham-based butchery chain Crawshaw entered the index for the first time this year.

The group enjoyed an astonishing 477 per cent increase in share price, which would have put it top of the leader board if it had been included in 2013.

Other new entrants Bradford-based double-glazing firm Safestyle, Sheffield-based software specialist Servelec and the Wakefield-based value fashion chain Bonmarche, which all launched IPOs in the final months of 2013.