• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Laser gas detection firm spots £1m profit

A SCOTS laser technology firm has posted a £1 million profit after recording dramatic growth in sales boosted by success overseas.

Cascade Technologies, whose products can be used to detect gas leaks, surged into the black in the year to March when it grew turnover to a record £6.1m from £3.5m in the preceding year.

The firm's success has put it on the radar of potential buyers, one of whom made a multi-million pound approach.

A sale could generate hefty windfalls for the team who spun the firm out of Strathclyde University in 2003, including managing director Iain Howieson.

Scots investment houses Panoramic Growth Equity and Braveheart Investment Group also have significant stakes in the business.

Mr Howieson said the company has reaped the rewards of developing technology that he reckons offers a much faster and more reliable way of detecting gases than others.

It can identify gases from unique fingerprints detected by the lasers.

Mr Howieson noted Cascade's technology for detecting explosives has been trialled successfully at Glasgow airport.

The company's products have won a following among international giants. One is used for monitoring the emissions from the exhausts on ships. BP was an early client.

Cascade technology has been deployed on the engine test-beds of a range of car manufacturers.

The company developed a product that can be used to detect leaks in aerosol cans during the production process after an approach from Unilever, the soap-to-ice-cream giant.

It has been working with US oil and gas major ExxonMobil on systems that could boost the efficiency of petrochemicals plants.

Around 85 per cent of sales are generated overseas. Europe, Asia and North America are major markets.

Mr Howieson is confident the company can sustain rapid growth. Regulatory changes and corporate efforts to boost efficiency are likely to spur demand.

Cascade is on course to grow turnover by a third or more in the current year.

"We would expect somewhere north of £8m - we are currently something like 50 per cent ahead of budget," said Mr Howieson.

He believes an annual growth rate of 30 per cent is sustainable.

As many of the company's costs are fixed, growth in sales should be translated into a big increase in profits. The growth prospects make a lucrative sale of the firm a real possibility.

Mr Howieson said Cascade's technology could sit well in a company that had the marketing, distribution muscle and brand to maximise sales.

He said Cascade has had a number of approaches and confirmed these included a bid valuing the company in the millions.

It did not result in a deal and Mr Howieson declined to give details.

Asked if a stock market flotation was a possibility, he added: "It very much depends on market conditions but I'm not sure it's right for Cascade.

"We see better opportunities for growth in some some kind of trade partnership."

Cascade intends to remain based in Scotland.

"We have an international market and an international workforce; I don't see any issue with being in Scotland," said Mr Howieson.

He noted the strength of ­Scotland's universities means Cascade can access a "great pool of high quality graduates" in areas like optoelectronics.

Mr Howieson said emerging small and medium sized technology enterprises get good support in the country.

Cascade was spun out of Strathclyde by Mr Howieson with Erwan Normand, and Richard Cooper.

Early backers included Scottish Equity Partners' Synergy Fund and Scottish Enterprise's Business Growth Fund,

Braveheart and the state-backed Scottish Coinvestment Fund provided £2m funding up to 2008.

Panoramic Growth Equity invested £1.7m in 2011.

Contextual targeting label: 
Business

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

245549