Five of Britain’s best-known $1bn ‘unicorn’ companies

Britain is currently home to more ‘unicorn companies’ than any other country in Europe. Natalie Stanton looks at five of the best.

150707-unicorns

Britainis bursting with unicorns

Britain is currently home to more unicorn companies' than any other county in Europe. At least, according to a recent report by tech-focused investment bank, GP Bullhound.

A unicorn' so named because of its rarity is defined as a technology company, founded in 2000 or later, with a valuation of more than $1bn. People tend to think of Silicon Valley as the natural home of unicorns, but there are now 17 of these elusive creatures in the UK that's 11 more than nearest rival, Sweden. Germany and Russia are next in line, housing four unicorns apiece. Meanwhile, France is home to three.

The latest to join the UK's growing herd of unicorns is cyber-security firm Sophos (LSE: SOPH), which has just listed on the London Stock Exchange with a market value of around £1bn.

Here are the stories of five other unicorns that have come to dominate the UK market:

ASOS

ASOS (AIM:ASC)

The business was originally based in London, but has ventured further afield over the past five years, opening stores in France, Germany, the USA, Australia, Italy and Spain.

It has grown spectacularly over the past few years, and in 2013 it became one of the 100 most valuable London-listed companies. However, it missed out on a spot in the FTSE 100 because it's still listed on Aim. At its share price peak, ASOS was worth almost as much as Marks & Spencer.

Just Eat

Just Eat

(LSE: JE)

Since then, it has looked further afield launching operations from the Netherlands to India to Brazil. It currently has a presence in 13 countries, and is looking at prospects in Australia.

In April 2014, Just Eat floated on the London Stock Exchange. It was the first firm to list on the exchange's high growth' segment, where companies don't have to float as much of their equity as for a premium listing.

Skyscanner

Skyscanner

More than 35 million people use Skyscanner each month. While the bulk of its business relates to flights, it is currently pushing to diversify its offering. Last year, Skyscanner's non-flight contribution to overall revenues increased by 47%.

In October 2013, Silicon Valley venture capital group Sequoia Capital acquired a stake in the business, but Skyscanner's management insists that it has no plans to raise additional funding right now.

Wonga

Wonga

But Wonga has been heavily criticised for its high interest rates (which ring in at 5,853% annually). It has also been embroiled in a number of scandals, and was forced to pay compensation to thousands of customers who received threatening letters from fake law firms.

As a result, Wonga has since recruited a new management team, and is attempting to restructure its business model in response to a Financial Conduct Authority crackdown on the payday loans industry.

Zoopla

Zoopla

(LSE: ZPLA)

Like many other unicorns, Zoopla grew through a number of mergers and acquisitions. In fact, it wiped out almost all of its key competitors, before its owner the Daily Mail and General Trust chose to float the company on the London Stock Exchange in June 2014.

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