By Daniel Hunter
The Business Growth Fund (BGF), established to help the UK’s fast growing smaller and medium sized businesses, has announced its £3.5m investment of growth capital in Reading based Bullitt Group Ltd, a company that provides complete go to market solutions for global brands looking to extend into mobile or audio products.
As the worldwide licensee of Caterpillar Inc. for mobile devices and accessories and the licensed manufacturer of JCB mobile devices, Bullitt owns a commanding position in a rapidly expanding ‘rugged’ device category and is quickly emerging as a market leader in the design and manufacture of high quality, high durability mobile phones for both the consumer and industrial sectors.
This investment signed at the end of 2012, bringing BGF’s total capital invested last year to c £120m in 21 small and medium sized businesses.
BGF’s investment will enable Bullitt to accelerate its portfolio of products and brands, as well as supporting the company’s expansion into more international markets. BGF will hold a minority stake in the business.
This is the fourth investment to be led by BGF’s regional team for the South West of England and South Wales. The investment was managed for BGF by James Austin, Paul Oldham, Ned Dorbin and Alex Garfitt.
This is also the second investment that BGF made in the telecoms sector in 2012, having backed GCI Telecom Group, an independent telecoms and data services provider in February 2012.
Bullitt operates a fully integrated model for the brands it works with, from product conception, through to distribution and marketing of the products. Its channel partners and customers include the world’s leading cellular distributors and telecoms carriers, who in turn sell Bullitt’s products to end users in 32 countries. Bullitt outsources manufacture to a highly regarded Tier 1 supply chain that includes the largest electronic design manufacturers in the industry, such as Compal in Taiwan, a Fortune 2000 company.
The Cat brand is the 64th most valued brand in the world (according to Interbrand) and Bullitt is the company’s first licensee in the mobile device category, testament to the unique approach and benefit Bullitt offers to extending brands into the mobile sector. Other brands in the portfolio today include JCB (manufacture of mobile phones) and Ted Baker (audio products).
Bullitt was founded in 2009 by David Floyd, Colin Batt (both previously held senior positions in Motorola); and Richard Wharton, an experienced sales and marketing executive with a background in media and consumer electronics.
Operating globally and employing 30 people, Bullitt has offices in Reading, as well as Shenzhen in China, and the US.
The global market for mobile phones is large with 1.8bn handsets sold in 2011. The rugged segment is estimated at between $700m and $1bn with c 20m handsets sold per annum (* Source: Strategy Analytics, IDC, GFK).
James Austin, BGF Investment Director, commented: "Despite the fact that Bullitt is a young company, the quality of its products and its management team have meant that is has already demonstrated an impressive record of achievement. In just three years, it has secured licensing agreements with some of the world's biggest brands, developed a strong network of top tier distributors and built relationships with leading electronic design manufacturers. As the first ever technology licensee for Caterpillar, it is already producing licensed mobile products for what is acknowledged to be the best rugged brand in the world.
“This is an industry prone to constant change. New technology continues to drive demand for new handsets and this in turn generates sales. The rugged phone market is large, growing and underserved — and Bullitt has seized the opportunity to establish itself as one of the leading developers in this space.
“We are delighted to be backing this highly experienced, entrepreneurial team."
Colin Batt, co-CEO, commented: "Bullitt has enjoyed rapid growth over the last three years and has now reached a critical juncture in its development. There is significant opportunity to build on our reputation as a leading developer of rugged phone products for the world's largest global brands. BGF's injection of funding will allow us to extend our portfolio and international reach in response to growing demand.”
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