Telecoms have evolved rapidly in the last few decades, with the pace of change showing no sign of slowing down.
When launched in 2003, the AIM-listed Tunbridge Wells based company Adept-Telecom (Adept) was entering a market where dial up modems were still common place.
But its meteoric rise, which has seen one investor’s stake now valued in the region of £9 million on an initial investment of £1 million, is due not just to the boom in technology, but also its long-sighted business model.
Selling directly to other companies, Adept was set up with the aim of consolidating a fractured market with over 11,000 businesses offering similar services.
Finance director John Swaite said: “At the moment the telecom market is split in two. For public consumers you are really just looking at around ten big companies, such as BT, Vodaphone or Virgin.
“But the business to business market is fractured among many companies. Our model is to buy out the competition, shut them down and move their business to Tunbridge Wells.”
But as few of the firms which are taken over are listed, Adept is not engaging in ‘hostile takeovers’ but instead it is looking for those willing to sell.
Mr Swaite said: “Most of the owners sell due to life events such as births, marriages, divorces or ill-health.”
So far the company has made 20 acquisitions since its launch, the most recent being the buy-out of rival Centrix in June for £7 million, which Mr Swaite believes was a good price.
He said: “For every company we buy we look at another ten available so we get a fair assessment of their worth.”
It was their first purchase of a company which provides physical products and also led the company to establish its only other office outside of Tunbridge Wells in the town of Hook.
Due to their acquisitions, Adept is now one of just 25 companies in the industry to make over £25 million in sales on an annual basis.
The ‘remaining 99 per cent’ tend to have an annual turnover under £3 million, Mr Swaite added.
Unlike major operators like BT, Adept-Telecom does not own its own network.
Instead, when customers decide to use Adept-Telecom, they are effectively buying a ‘bundle’ of different services, provided by many operators, but for one monthly price.
This allows the customers almost complete flexibility over who provides their services but it also means they tie up in a seamless fashion which is especially valuable if they operate from numerous locations.
Mr Smith said: “We serve several big companies, such as Halfords, which operates around 350 sites. It would be a nightmare to pay individual fees for each one.
“And then there is the problem of some providers dominating one region and others dominating another, meaning you could end up dealing with multiple providers. But if you are a customer you just want it to work.”
AIM is the London Stock Exchange’s international market for smaller growing comapnies.
FOUNDERS OF ADEPT TELECOM
Chairman: Roger Wilson
Worked in telecommunications since 1993. In addition to being the first Managing Director for Telewest’s residential consumer business in the UK he spent 3 years in Poland successfully building a business for American investors. He was Managing Director of the European Competitive Telecommunications Association until January 2006.
Chief Executive: Ian Fishwick
Telecommunications MD/ CEO for over 20 years working in areas as diverse as secure battlefield communications and cable television. He has been running companies providing voice telephone service to the public since 1995. “I’ve learned over the years that customers need a small number of things doing very well to keep them satisﬁ ed. Fair prices. Reliability. Accurate bills. And the ability to speak to a friendly helpful person who’ll sort out their problem if something goes wrong.”
Kent and Sussex are home to some of the most innovative and forward thinking companies in the UK, many of which can be found in the borough of Tunbridge Wells itself.
In recognition of this, we have compiled a list of companies which, like Adept-Telecom, are listed on the AIM and which have connections with the town.
We shall be monitoring the progress of these companies, keeping you updated on their results, share prices and other developments of interest over the coming months.
Until last December, the Armour Group was headquartered in Lonsdale Gardens, but has since relocated to Lordswood near Chatham. The company describes itself as an ‘investing company’ with a policy ‘to seek opportunities in the technology sector’.
The company was first listed on the London Stock Exchange in the 1970s before transferring to the AIM in 2002.
Some of its more recent deals include the sale of its automotive division to AAMP of America in 2014 for £11m.
Market Cap: £3.15 million.
Key People: Chairman Bob Morton and finance director Mark Wilson.
Founded in 1996 and floated on the AIM ten years later, Crimson Tide develops pieces of software called mpro5 to help streamline the supply chain and keep the back ofﬁ ce constantly informed on what is going on.
Biggest Clients: Marks & Spencer, Nestle and the Metro Newspaper for which its software has been used to track 670 million newspapers in the past four years.
Market Cap: £9.13 million
Key People: Founder and chairman Barrie Whipp
A palm oil company located in the heart of Tunbridge Wells with a history dating back over 130 years. The company has a stake in over 45,000 planted hectares of oil-palm plantations in Indonesia. Formerly listed on the main market the firm switched to the AIM in 2002.
Market Cap: £212 million.
Key people: Managing director Philip Fletcher, finance director Tristan Price, chairman Peter Hadsley-Chaplin.
Jarvis Securities is situated on the same premises as Adept-Telecom and the investment ﬁ rm Wellian. A provider of stockbroking services to both retail investors and institutions since 1984, it also provides ISA plans, SIPPS, regular savings plans and investment trust schemes. The company listed on the AIM in 2004.
Market Cap: £42 million.
Key People: Chairman and chief executive Andrew J Grant.