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  1. ACT Manuf.
  2. Provant Inc.
  3. Analog Devices
  4. Sapient Corp.
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  2. Inverness Medical
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  3. CMGI Inc.
  4. Telaxis Comm.
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The Boston Globe OnlineBoston.com Boston Globe Online / Business / 2001 Globe 100

Growing pains

Growth's rewards tough to sustain

By Jeffrey Krasner, Globe Staff, 5/22/2001


Growth's rewards prove tough to sustain
A look at this year's Growth 50 list shows that in the new economy -- whatever that may come to mean -- growth is unpredictable and hard to maintain. Continued

1. ACT Manufacturing Inc.
2. Provant Inc.
3. Analog Devices Inc.
4. Sapient Corp.
5. Foilmark Inc.

Get the chart
The Growth 50

bove almost any other measure of financial success, Wall Street rewards growth.

But a look at this year's Growth 50 list shows that in the new economy - whatever that may come to mean - growth is unpredictable and hard to maintain.

For some companies on this year's list, growth is even a misleading indicator.

Take Sapient Corp., a Cambridge Internet consulting company that's the only firm to make it into the Growth top five for two years running. Sapient's numbers are standouts: two-year average sales growth of 75 percent, and two-year average profit growth of 154 percent.

But in the volatile world of the Internet, that's old news. Most recently, Sapient has made headlines for warning that it won't meet Wall Street's profit expectations and for cutting staff worldwide to trim costs.

Provant Inc., a Boston-based employee training firm, has also been battered by recent cutbacks in corporate budgets, and while it's near the top of the growth list for 2000, its shares are near a 52-week low. The company has also warned it will not meet the Street's earnings expectations.

Casual Male Corp., of Canton, ranked at number 49, down from 30 the year before, is also having a tougher 2001. Last week, its debt was downgraded by rating agencies, amidst talk the company might seek protection from creditors in Bankruptcy Court. The company filed for bankruptcy protection Friday. As they say in the prospectuses, past results are no indication of future performance.

Still, there are some reassuring signs among the growth companies. Analog Devices, number three, and Teradyne Inc., number eight, both stalwarts of the Massachusetts economy, benefited from the strong market for electronics. Analog makes microchips, and grew on the strength of the market for wireless communications devices. Teradyne makes automated equipment for testing microchips. (Teradyne and Analog are also first and second, respectively, on this year's Globe 100.)

Another solid performance in the high-tech arena came from data-storage giant EMC Corp., of Hopkinton, which moved down only six places, to number 16. EMC showed two-year average growth in sales and profits of 49 percent.

And three other members of last year's top five managed to stay on the growth list.

Affiliated Managers Group Inc., the amalgamation of asset-management firms headed by former Boston Company executive Bill Nutt that topped the list last year, ranks 19th this year. The firm posted far-from-shabby numbers, with sales growing an average of 39.7 percent over two years and profit growing an average 49 percent.

Biogen Inc. of Cambridge, last year's number four, ranks 21 this year. The biotech powerhouse may be poised for another surge in growth. It has reported promising results for a psoriasis treatment that could bolster its revenue, which currently comes from Avonex, a best-selling drug for multiple sclerosis. And it has continued its overseas expansion with additional partnerships in Europe.

Jeffrey Krasner can be reached by e-mail at krasner@globe.com.


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