"A number of those that joined the business at its humble beginnings remain with us to this day. New young blood has since joined and together we have all experienced many developments through the years"

Jim Barker

Chief Executive

Looking back as TR celebrates 40 years of Service innovation

Founded in June 1973 in a rented room and the basement (for storage) in a Listed historic house at the top end of Uckfield High Street by Mike Timms and Mike Roberts, with their wives and a van driver as their first employees. They has previously built up their fastener industry knowledge and experience as managers at Tern Screw Ltd. in South-East London, but its subsequent acquisition by the Glynwed Group in Birmingham motivated them to start their own fastener business.

Jim Barker (a former Glynwed colleague) joined them in 1974, followed by myself and then Geoff Budd in 1976, by which time TR had moved to a small converted industrial unit in the town, and in that year, in-house manufacturing of threaded sheet metal fasteners was added to the Uckfield distribution facility. John Wilson joined as head of finance in 1978.

Rapid expansion then followed, with distribution sites established in Northern Ireland, Bracknell, East Kilbride and Newton Aycliffe, along with an acquired self-locking nut factory in Northampton and a large new greenfield factory in Telford for turned parts and cold heading of screws.

Once satisfied that their business was growing very successfully, the two founders retired from operational involvement in 1984, leaving TR under the day to day responsibility of their four Executive Directors. The founders then resigned as Directors shortly before the business was fully listed as Trifast PLC on the London Stock Exchange in February 1994 with, by then, a sales turnover of £23m and a market capitalisation of nearly £32m.

Growth and profitability then grew dramatically year-on-year until the end of the decade, largely driven by TR's expertise in component logistics management directly on to the assembly lines of mainly multinational electronics customers – predominantly in the telecoms sector.

Hooke hall

During this time, the decision was taken to invest heavily into Asia – with fastener manufacturing acquisitions in Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan, and then a greenfield distribution centre based in Shanghai.

In 1998, institutional shareholders in the City rejected the Board's wish to diversify risk by acquiring a major UK competitor who mainly served the automotive and engineering sectors. Following the lack of any impact from the 'Millennium Bug' in 2000, there followed the global collapse in demand for telecoms hardware in 2001 (now known as the 'DotCom' crash) which heavily decimated TR's profits within three months. The Company had to act quickly to reduce its overheads as a result including closing the marginally profitable factory in Telford.

In 2002 after 18 years of leading the business, I stepped down as CEO and retired from the business and went on to build many commercial interests and assist young growing business enterprise. I handed over to my colleague Jim Barker, who in 2005 went on to lead the acquisition of Serco Ryan, a large UK fastener distributor that had little reliance on the electronics sector. By mid-2007 having being at the helm for five years and recovering turnover and profit to levels close to performance achieved prior to the DotCom crash in 2001, Jim Barker retired after having served 26 years with TR.

However, it became clear during 2008 that Trifast was going to fail in reaching its City growth and profit targets, thus becoming in danger of severely disappointing its shareholders as profit warnings were issued by the Company.

In early 2009, when the full impact of the global recession was becoming clear, several major shareholders initiated a move to make substantial changes to the Board, and myself and Jim Barker were asked to make a return as Executive Chairman and CEO respectively, in order to help restore investor value.

By late that year, after the senior management changes, Trifast had moved back into profit as the first stage of a three year recovery plan put together by the revitalised Board instigated. This building back of financial performance and strength has continued consistently since then, resulting in the ability to acquire the high quality Malaysian based manufacturer PowerSteel (PSEP) in late 2011. This move broadened TR's capacity in larger diameter cold formed components that meet the demands of the automotive sector, which now accounts for 30% of TR's global revenue.

In retrospect, the Nineties was a 'golden decade' for TR with meteoric growth from £23m in 1994 to over £100m by year 2000, accompanied by a share price that grew from £2 to over £12 in six years (after share split in 1999, this equates to 50p and £3); however, being unable to secure shareholder investment to spread the risk of over 50% exposure to the electronics sector back in 1998 proved highly costly in 2001.

Happily, the combination of the Serco Ryan business coupled with a highly successful international sales campaign to secure revenue from the less 'fractious' automotive sector has now made TR less exposed to risk by having its main customer divisions more evenly spread, with no one company accounting for more than 5% of total sales.

In June 2013, TR celebrated its 40th Anniversary; the Company continues from strength to strength, all thanks to our dedicated and skilled management and staff, who from humble beginnings now amount to over 1,000 personnel working in 23 divisions in 16 countries across three continents.

Malcolm Diamond MBE
Executive Chairman