PACE, which has been quietly building set top boxes for pay-TV firms for almost 30 years, is now the biggest player in its field. Having been around to experience the explosion in satellite TV in the late 1980s, it probably thought its high-growth days were behind it. It couldn’t have been more wrong: in 2009, annual pre-tax profits soared by 405 per cent to almost £70m.
It wasn’t always thus. Founded in 1982 in the picturesque Yorkshire village of Saltaire – still home to the company’s HQ – the firm nearly went bankrupt in the 1990s. It was also hit hard when the dot.com bubble burst; in 2002, its shares – which closed at 201p yesterday – were then exchanging hands for as little as 20p. Any investors who have held onto stock bought then will be sitting on very tidy paper profits indeed.
However, the firm – whose revenues broke through the £1bn barrier in 2009 – is now considered an almost unmitigated success.
It has benefited from being at the forefront of two growth stories. Firstly, the explosion of new TV formats like High Definition and 3D has meant firms like BSkyB and Virgin constantly need new kit. Second, the demand for Pay-TV in emerging markets like India (see right) and Latin America is quickly hotting up.