Jack Bowthorpe was the founder of the Group of Companies now known as Spirent Communications. Jack’s background was in the supply of “everything electrical,” and in 1936, with limited financial resources, Goodliffe Electric Supplies Ltd was formed. The Company was based in London as a designer and supplier of overhead transmission line fittings. The strategy of the Company was to spot a niche in the electrical and electronics market and fill it; this was a strategy that continued into the 1990’s.
The Company fairly quickly expanded and moved to new premises in Croydon and became known as the Bowthorpe Electric Company Limited. A second company was then formed, Hellermann Electric Limited, and by the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 the features of what was later to become the Bowthorpe Group had been well established. These companies had strong family ties and a massive team spirit, and their business was based on providing the customer with what they wanted. The Company moved to Oxford in 1940 as a consequence of the war and, requiring additional space and premises, moved to Crawley, West Sussex in 1948.
In 1949 the Company was incorporated and registered as a private company limited by shares. In 1955 Bowthorpe Holdings Limited was listed on the London Stock Exchange. The Company re-registered as a public company in 1981 as Bowthorpe Holdings plc and changed its name to Bowthorpe plc in 1982.
The Group continued to expand in Crawley, as well as acquiring a number of overseas businesses. Its strategy of diversification and geographical spread was working well and its readiness to adapt to market conditions supported it in difficult times. During the late 1970’s much of the site in Crawley, which had been its main base, was sold as its operations were moved to lower cost regions in the UK. The corporate office was retained in Crawley, and this is where it still remains today.
Over the years many businesses were acquired and many were sold, and by the mid-1990’s Bowthorpe was a diverse Group of niche companies supplying components and accessories to high-tech organisations in defence, aerospace and, telecommunications, with a broad range of industrial applications. In 1997 the Group announced a change in its strategic direction and that it would focus its investments on markets with high growth potential and divest its non-core businesses.
In 2000 a new identity “Spirent” was launched reflecting its culture of “inspired innovation”. The Company changed its name to Spirent plc on 12 May, 2000 and declared that the Group strategy would be to focus on high growth, high margin, high technology activities and build a world-leading communications business. The first acquisition in communications test had come in 1995 with the acquisition of Telecom Analysis Systems. This was followed by Global Simulation Systems and Adtech in 1997, Netcom Systems in 1999 and Heikimian Laboratories in 2000, there were also a number of smaller acquisitions. The majority of Spirent’s acquisitions were based in the United States but sales operations were also established in Europe and in Asia to support and expand the Group’s global activities.
The Company changed its name to Spirent Communications plc on 8 May 2006.
Spirent listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2001, terminating the listing in 2007 due to the high cost and the onerous reporting requirements of maintaining it.
Whilst Spirent’s communications businesses saw high growth during the technology boom, there were tougher times ahead economically, and particularly in the telecoms sector, which resulted in restructuring actions being taken by the Group in the period 2001 to 2007. Despite the need for tight cost control, Spirent continued to invest in product development to maintain its position at the forefront of next-generation technologies to drive future growth.
There were further divestments of non-core activities. The Network Products Group, (the HellermannTyton Division) was sold in 2006. The cash from the sale significantly improved the Group’s financial position and enabled the Group to repay its debt. Following this disposal the Group was comprised of its communications divisions, Performance Analysis and Service Assurance, and the Systems Group, a leading global designer and supplier of DC and AC controllers for specialist electric vehicle applications in the medical mobility and industrial markets.
An element of the Group’s current strategy is to focus on growing and emerging technology markets. Most recently, and in line with this strategy, Spirent has acquired the following businesses in the United States. Mu Dynamics, Inc. was acquired in April 2012 for a cash consideration of $40 million. Mu offers security solutions that enable faster, higher quality deployments of cloud applications and applications-aware networks. Metrico Wireless, Inc. was acquired in September 2012 for a cash consideration of $52 million. Metrico is a leading provider of services and tools that enable carriers, device vendors and technology providers to analyse the performance and subscriber quality of experience of mobile devices in the field.
On the 1st November 2012 Spirent sold the last of its non-core businesses, Systems for $64 million. Following this disposal Spirent’s activities are fully focused on the communications test and measurement market.
Spirent today may not be the same Company that Jack Bowthorpe established over 70 years ago, but it still embraces some of the same core values. It has always welcomed change, remained customer focused, valued its employees and maintained its ability to adapt to market conditions. The actions taken in recent years have also resulted in a much stronger organisation both operationally and financially.