A mix of engineering, pub and software groups have survived the credit crunch to retain their positions as the largest companies in the West Midlands.
GKN, which is based in Redditch, Worcestershire, overcame the downward cost pressures from its customers and rising raw materials prices to retain its position as the biggest company by turnover in the region.
The company notched up sales during 2007 of £3.63?billion, which also made it the largest quoted company.
GKN was also the most profitable concern, with profits of £182?million during 2007.
All four divisions of the company reported growth, with driveline sales up six?per cent, powder metallurgy up eight?per cent, off highway up 20?per cent, and aerospace up 24?per cent.
It met some of the challenges by restructuring its operations and growing its presence in India and China.
The driveshaft business secured 80?per cent of all available business while the company’s aerospace division secured $1?billion of new orders during the year.
Sir Kevin Smith, chief executive of GKN, summed up these successes, saying: “This has been the year when GKN moved decisively into higher gear.”
Wolverhampton construction company Carillion was boosted by a string of contract wins to climb one place to second spot.
It could also be in an ever-stronger position to challenge GKN for the top spot after it completed the £572?million purchase of fellow infrastructure services company Alfred McAlpine.
The deal is expected to create one of the UK’s largest support services and construction companies, with an aggregate revenue of around £4.7?billion.
During the year, Carillion, which provides expertise in commercial and industrial building, civil engineering and rail construction and maintenance, achieved sales of £3.06?billion and profits of £67.6?million.
Among the projects secured by Carillion was a £175 million project to build 14 secondary schools in the North-east, and a £300 million deal to provide pre-construction services for the completion of the second satellite at Terminal Five of Heathrow Airport.
Meanwhile, Carillion’s joint venture business in the Middle East appointed preferred bidder for construction projects worth £470?million, with framework agreements for up to a further £5.3?billion of construction work.
Pub and restaurant group Mitchells and Butlers was the third largest listed company, despite enduring a troubled year. The Harvester and Toby Carvery owner sold 107 million meals during 2007, and increased drinks sales by 2.2?per cent.
But it was hit by the collapse of a debt-financed property joint venture it planned with entrepreneur and major investor Robert Tchenguiz.
The deal – a move to return cash to shareholders – involved around 1,300 of its pubs.
But banks pulled the plug on the scheme following the credit crunch and left M&B with £274?million in losses from a wrong-way bet on interest rates as borrowing costs began to come down.
The issues hit the group’s share price and it was relegated from the FTSE 100 Index in December.
During the year, M&B racked up sales of £1.89?billion, but the company reported a loss of £48?million following the collapse of the deal.
Fellow pub operator Enterprise Inns, based in Solihull, had a slightly better year, despite the wet weather and the start of the smoking ban in England.
It came sixth overall with sales of £921?million, and profits of £337 million, which made it the most profitable company in the Midlands.
This put it behind engineering group IMI, which rose two places to fourth with sales of £1.5 billion and Severn Trent, which dropped one place to fifth with sales of £1.48?billion.
Retailer Halfords, engineering group Wagon, pub and beer group Marston’s and software developer Misys made up the rest of the top ten.
There was a new company at the top of the Aim-listed firms, with Titan Europe climbing one spot to become the largest firm by sales in this category.
Kidderminster-based Titan supplies steel wheels to major excavator manufacturers such as Caterpillar, Komatsu, Volvo and Liebherr and 80?per cent of its sales are to export, mainly to the Americas, Asia and Europe.
The company said a major weakening in the North American construction market hit its undercarriage business where revenues fell by nearly £20?million. That was offset by all the other geographical markets, which recorded increases.
It achieved sales of £385.8?million and profits of £21.5?million during the year.
Now talks are under way over a possible £190?million buyout of Titan Europe by its former US parent, Titan International.
Titan overtook Birmingham-based computer hardware and software distributor Fayrewood as the largest Aim company.
Fayrewood slipped to fourth place with sales of £129.5?million, and profits of £936,000 during 2007.
Acertec, a Stratford-based manufacturer of steel wire, pressings and assemblies was the second largest Aim company with sales of £322.9?million and profits of £8.8?million. It was followed by GSH Group, from Stoke, which was third largest with sales of £157.4?million.
There were two new entries in the top ten, headed by investment company Castle Support Services.
The firm, the successor company to the Birmingham industrial maintenance group Dowding & Mills, is now planning to go global — beyond its existing presence in Europe, Australasia and North America.
This will probably involve a series of joint ventures like a £1.6?million deal struck in January to buy 50?per cent of Intersel, a Dubai company servicing generators and motors in the energy industries.
Castle was previously a shell company with a large pension surplus, which has now been used to offset Dowding’s pension deficit. When the two schemes were merged last August they had a combined surplus of £14.4?million.
In 2007, the company had sales of £87.2?million and profits of £21.9?million.
The other new entrant was Network Group Holdings from Coventry.
Sales of £51.6?million put the labour recruitment and personnel company in eighth place among the Aim companies.
Sir Peter Rigby’s Specialist Computer Holdings (SCH) kept its top spot among the private companies, with sales of £2.04?billion.
This was almost twice as large as the next biggest private concern in the Midlands – packaging company Linpac, which retained second place with sales of £1.15?billion. Sir Peter, who is chairman and chief executive of SCH is the eighth richest person in the Midlands, with a private fortune estimated at £510 million.
SCH has grown from a £2,000 investment made 30 years ago into a £2.4?billion turnover group today and is the largest privately-owned IT group in Europe.
Headquartered in the UK, the international group employs more than 6,000 skilled people operating from a pan-European network of 85 offices.
Holding leading positions in eight key European markets, the group also manages its own global network of business partners in an additional 60 countries.
But while Sir Peter’s reign at the top of the privately-owned companies is unlikely to change soon, there are plenty of newcomers.
Abbot Group, an international drilling and well engineering firm was the highest newcomer with sales of £594.1?million during 2007 placing it fourth overall.
There are eight other new entrants into the top 20 of privately-owned businesses in the Midlands, underlining the strength in depth of the regional economy even in these uncertain times.