The latest SaaS collaboration vendor to report on its financial performance is Sunderland, UK-based provider 4Projects, whose latest (abbreviated) annual return to Companies House covers the year to 31 March 2012. CFO Chris Baty was happy to provide me with some more detailed background to the business’s 2012 performance.
“Double digit growth”
Revenues were up slightly (1.4%) at £5,075,250 (2011: £5,007,253), starting to reverse the two year dip in turnover since 4Projects’ £5.5m peak of 2009 (post). Chris told me that the company was beginning to benefit from the foundations laid in previous years, with more stable enterprise revenues now beginning to flow, “accelerating double-digit growth” in the current financial year (2012-13), and a predicted record year to report next time (“things are really buzzing at the moment”). As mentioned in a previous post, this performance means that 4Projects now has a higher turnover than the UK business of its rival Conject.
4Projects’ growth was shared across every region, Chris said, including the UK. As previously discussed, the company had taken a cautious approach to the Middle East, but this was now its highest growth area, followed by the north America market. In both regions, 4Projects was seeing growth in excess of 50% (admittedly from a low base), while the benefits of its partner programme in other markets were also beginning to trickle in – we talked about its Australian partner, Project Collaboration (post), already a significant player in the ANZ region, which Chris said had secured some recent energy sector wins and would be contributing significant revenues to the 4Projects group in 2014.
Pre-tax profits were also increasing at 4Projects. In the year to 31 March 2012, it achieved a profit of £1,862,700 (2011: £1,358,508), again heading back to the pre-recession levels of 2009. The company has continued to manage its customer portfolio to reduce its reliance on contractors and build up a core of construction industry client organisations.
The company’s retail focused business 4Retail was “just ticking along,” Chris said (perhaps reflecting the uncertain performance of the UK retail sector). Overall, 4Projects staff numbers are up to 62 (57 in March 2012), with the company “recruiting on a wave of revenue growth” buoyed by interest in its BIM platform (“BIM in the browser”) and its 4BIM project (post) and related research initiatives which are a key element of 4Projects’ continued product investment.
When looking at Aconex’s financial performance recently (post), I commented about the now almost annual Aconex accounting adjustment. 4Projects inadvertently (I think) made an adjustment – if only to the amount of detail given. For most of the last decade it has published a full set of accounts, but the firm’s latest annual return to Companies House provides abbreviated accounts “prepared in accordance with the special provisions for small companies under Part 15 of the Companies Act 2006”.
Abbreviated accounts contain no details of turnover or profitability, so there is little transparency of the company’s detailed financial performance. Of course, 4Projects is not alone in the publishing abbreviated accounts; some other vendors I monitor have never published full accounts (Cadweb, Sarcophagus and Union Square, for example, spring to mind). But Chris explained the switch was little more than a new audit manager’s suggestion (“she just assumed that we would want to file the minimum requirements – as most businesses do”).