The divide between midsized UK companies that are merely surviving and the better-performing “ gazelles” is widening, according to a new report.

Figures compiled by Experian, the credit checking agency, noted that although the overall number of medium-sized companies – defined as those with turnover of £2.5m-£100m – has been broadly flat at 24,955 over the past 12 months, the number of businesses within that group which have achieved high levels of growth has increased by 10 per cent to 4,353.

These so-called gazelle businesses, defined as those generating aggregate growth of at least 33 per cent over the previous three years, are spread across almost every industry sector and UK region, although some sectors and parts of the country have performed better than others.

About a quarter of those identified as high growth provide business services, such as consultancy and IT support. The next biggest group is manufacturers, which accounted for about a fifth of the total, and retail, which had an 11 per cent share.

This reflects a gradual shift within the midsized company population since 2000 towards those providing business services, the research noted.

Stephen Welton, chief executive of the Business Growth Fund, which was set up by the UK bank industry to take equity stakes in promising young companies, said the data were encouraging. “It shows that despite all the wider challenges posed by the macroeconomic climate, there has been more and ever increasing SME growth in the UK,” he said.

“However, for real economic recovery, we need these figures to be higher and more broadly based. We need to see heightened levels of ambition and investment among business owners,” he added.

About half of the companies identified as high growth had turnovers between £2.5m and £10m, with 2,202 companies falling into this category.

Although the number of high-growth companies was up last year from 3,945, it was down from a peak of 6,559 in 2009, just after the financial crisis struck.

London and its surrounding areas had the largest share of the current crop, with 8,518 high-growth companies headquartered in the capital, and a further 4,177 based elsewhere in the southeast of England. Wales and northeast England had the lowest number of fast-growing midsized companies.

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