Four Sussex-based companies have made it into the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 - a league table of Britain's fastest growing companies.

Leading the pack is Mistral Internet Group in Brighton, which moved up eight places from last year to number 40.

The firm, which was named Company of the Year at The Argus-sponsored Sussex Business Awards earlier this year, provides internet services for the likes of Microsoft and Sony. Mistral's sales grew almost 90 per cent a year from £838,000 in 1999 to £5.7 million in 2002.

Building services contractor Paul Earl, in Newhaven, entered the list at number 46 after securing a £280,000 contract to install energy-monitoring units at Sainsbury's.

The company, which was founded in 1966 and now employs 44 staff, was bought by its present owners in 1990. Its sales grew 86 per cent a year from £1.6 million in 1999 to £10.1 million in 2002.

Chichester-based Carte Blanche Greetings, which sells cards in stores such as WH Smith and Asda, was positioned at number 72.

Owner Stephen Haines mortgaged his home and sold his motorbike to found the company, famous for its Me to You Brand, the grey bear with a blue nose, in 1987. It sales have grown slightly more than 70 per cent from £7 million in 1999 to £35.2 million in 2002.

The Ambassador Theatre Group which operates the Theatre Royal in Brighton also runs 11 theatres in the West End.

Its sales have grown almost 60 per cent a year from £9.2 million in 1999 to £44.1 million in 2002.

Thursday December 11, 2003