AS I SEE IT: Craneware is among a number of Scottish growth firms that deserve more recognition, says TERRY MURDEN
When the time comes to celebrate Scotland’s high achievers it is generally the case that the same handful of well-known names make it on to the list. Skyscanner, Fanduel and BrewDog deserve their place, but there are others whose brands rarely trouble the content of political, and even business speeches, yet are making substantial progress. Craneware, for example.
This software company, based in modest offices in Edinburgh’s Canon Mills is quoted on the London Stock Exchange and has a dominant position in the US healthcare market, providing billing systems and analytics to 2,000 hospitals and now to nearly 10,000 clinics and pharmacies across the States.
Following yesterday’s half-year figures analysts at Investec set a target price of 3250p on its shares against last night’s close of 1725p. That growth in the shares would mirror the doubling of its revenue in the last six months over the previous year.
After the slump in stock markets over recent weeks, hitting that target price would also comfort those who bought in at 2200p during last year’s placing that raised £136.2m, and it would restore Craneware’s position as one of Scotland’s lesser known unicorns – a company valued at $1bn.
While CEO Keith Neilson told me afterwards that the company will not repeat its recent rate of expansion over the second half, he does expect it to be “comfortably into double digit growth over the next 12 to 18 months.”
Craneware is one of a number of low profile Scottish firms making headway in their sector without actually having any, or very little, operational presence in Scotland. Weir Group is probably the best example, still regularly described by the media as a “Scottish engineering giant”, it makes next to nothing in Scotland and now considers itself a mining technology business with operations around the world, but having only an office in its home base of Glasgow.
The online pharmacy firm Phlo is another with big prospects that could lead to a market listing. It is based in Glasgow but does all of its business south of the border, largely because of restrictive NHS rules in Scotland. Linlithgow-based telecoms testing firm Calnex Solutions, which floated in 2020, is a high-growth company that operates almost entirely outwith Scotland, as does Beeks Financial Cloud, a Hillington-based financial software firm that is another recent stock market entrant.
Two mature businesses are Capricorn Energy (formerly Cairn Energy), whose oil and gas exploration activities are mainly in foreign waters, and the Glasgow meter installation company Smart Metering Systems. Both are currently worth around $1.2bn, yet they rarely, if ever, get mentioned in the list of Scottish unicorns.
These companies fall below the radar of speech writers and, perhaps with the exception of Weir Group, you’d struggle to find an MSP who could name any of them. But they are the high achievers who are helping to build those growth businesses that are the subject of many policy and strategy papers and perhaps deserve a little more public recognition.
Terry Murden held senior positions at The Sunday Times, The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and The Northern Echo and is now editor of Daily Business