Business of the year

There’s been some really first-rate performances from some of the nation’s kargest and best known companies this year, making choosing a winner exceptionally hard. The most surprising entrant perhaps is Ocado, since many in the City had written the internet grocer off after its share listing. Thomas Cook is in there because in 2013 it has virtually back from the dead.

ARM HOLDINGS
Software design company ARM Holdings has enjoyed a hugely successful year, with shares hitting a 12-year high in February. ARM, which designs and licenses computer chips to companies such as Samsung, Qualcomm and Apple, has been helped by the rise of the smartphone and the tablet, and last month said its second quarter sales had increased by more than a quarter to £171.2m. Shares got a further boost last week following the announcement of the new iPhone 5 range, which uses ARM chips.

EASYJET
An excellent share price performance and an elevation to the FTSE 100 have been the highlights of a highly successful year for airline company EasyJet. Revenues rose 10.5 per cent to £1.14bn in the three months through June, and it expects pretax profits of £450- £480m in the year up to 30 September – up from last year's £317m. easyJet's strategy of adding flights on routes where rivals have cut has proved to be a fruitful one. With some European airlines struggling with high fuel costs and weak consumer confidence, EasyJet has been able to step into the void.

OCADO
A deal with Morrisons has been the standout moment of a successful year for Ocado. The 25-year agreement, which will see Ocado provide operational services to the supermarket chain to launch its own online chain, has boosted shares over the last three months in particular. With speculation of a potential takeover still on the horizon, stock has risen by nearly 280 per cent since January and the firm said last week that sales in the 12 weeks to 11 August rose 16.4 per cent to £189.2m. It has also said that the highest number of orders delivered in a week exceeded 140,000 and peak day volumes consistently exceeded record levels.

THOMAS COOK
The remarkable turnaround of Thomas Cook makes it one of the most successful businesses of the year. The travel agency’s shares rocketed in May after it unveiled a £1.6bn capital restructuring which cleared the path to resuming dividend payments within a couple of years. The firm has also returned from the brink of bankruptcy to post profits of £1m for April to June, compared to a £23m loss a year ago. Net debt has also been slashed from £1.1bn a year ago to £452m, and the share price has more than tripled since the start of 2013.

EXPERIAN
Since demerging from GUS in 2006, the information services group Experian has continued to grow successfully, delivering total shareholder returns of 128 per cent - three times the FTSE average - through a combination of expansion into new geographic and vertical markets, product innovation and investment, and leveraging its global scale and common platforms to deploy products quickly into new markets. The past year saw revenues grow 10 per cent and earnings grow 13 per cent, allowing a 9 per cent rise in the full-year dividend. 700p three years ago to around 1200p now.

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