16/06/2011 - 00:00

Upward trajectory for the majority of past winners

16/06/2011 - 00:00


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PAST winners of the Rising Stars award could never be accused of standing still.

Upward trajectory for the majority of past winners

PAST winners of the Rising Stars award could never be accused of standing still.

Since 2003, nearly 70 private businesses have been named as Rising Stars in the annual awards program.

This includes eight businesses that have won the top award.

Out of all the winners, at least a dozen have caught the eye of larger businesses and been acquired, delivering an instant financial return to their owners.

Three of the winners have listed on the Australian Securities Exchange and two have won backing from private equity investors.

All of these transactions don’t just happen; they only occur when the owners and managers of these businesses can demonstrate a sustainable and profitable growth strategy.

The majority of Rising Stars winners have continued to pursue organic growth without any notable change in their ownership. And like any entrepreneurial tale involving risk-taking, some winners have subsequently stumbled into administration or receivership.

The businesses to have successfully pursued an ASX listing include Thinksmart, which was the joint winner in 2006.

Led by executive chairman Ned Montarello, Thinksmart developed an innovative system for rapidly processing point-of-sale finance applications for computers and office equipment.

About 600 retail stores in Australia have deployed its system, including JB Hi-Fi, Dick Smith and Officeworks, and the group is extending its international reach.

Thinksmart has also become a financier, with its latest deal being a $100 million securitisation program through Westpac.

In the year to December 2010, Thinksmart lifted sales to $42.1 million and net profit to $6.8 million.

Engineering group Calibre Global, which was the Rising Stars winner in 2005, has enjoyed almost non-stop growth.

To support that growth, it recruited Rod Baxter (ex Consolidated Minerals) as chief executive and last year accepted a major investment by British private equity firm First Reserve Corporation.

The group has undertaken four acquisitions in the past 18 months, including Brisbane firms Joharko and Xstract Mining Consultants and Melbourne firm Minerva Engineers.

In its biggest acquisition it paid $29 million to buy out its partner in the Calibre Engenium rail joint venture, which designed many of the big rail projects in the Pilbara.

Calibre has grown to have 1,200 staff and annual revenue of $203 million, and the acquisitions mean those numbers are likely to grow.

The 2008 winner, Strategic Marine, started life as Geraldton Boat Builders.

Under the leadership of executive chairman Mark Newbold, it has established shipyards at Henderson, as well as Singapore, Mexico and most recently Vietnam, and employs 1,500 staff.

Originally its focus was on aluminium vessels, such as patrol boats and crew boats, but it now has capacity to build larger steel vessels.

The company said in April that it was contracted to supply 250 vessels.

Its most recent order, from WA company Bhagwan Marine, was for two vessels to service the oil and gas industry.

The new vessels are landing craft, measuring 49 metres and 38 metres respectively.

One of its largest orders, built in Vietnam, was the 99-metre long and 53-metre wide loading dock that has been installed at the Australian Marine Complex.

Joint 2006 winner Australian Mine Services was sold by its founders Ian Massara and Julie Smith-Massara to Leighton Holdings for $12.7 million.

They sold the business in 2008, just five years after it was established.


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