New Wave

Sweden. Rank: 59. Sales: ¬207 million

New Wave Group is riding high these days. The Swedish clothing company sells a mix of moderately priced casual lines, workmen's gear, and sportswear in 12 countries from China to Switzerland. Sales have been increasing at an 41% annual clip since 1990, and the company is on course to do the same this year. In just the first half of 2004, sales were up 20%, to €117.8 million, while profits grew by the same percentage, to €9.3 million. "They've been quite successful at entering new markets," says Lars Frick, a retail analyst at Kaupthing Bank in Stockholm.

Unlike its much larger compatriot, H&M Hennes & Maurtiz, New Wave stears clear of trendy fashions. In April, Chief Executive Torsten Jansson snapped up Jobman Workwear, a Swedish maker of high-quality work clothes. To finance Jobman's international expansion, New Wave floated €16.2 million in new shares on the Stockholm Stock Exchange in June.

Jansson, 42, is also expanding by creating new brands. In the spring, New Wave will launch a children's clothing line as a complement to its Pax children's shoe brand. The company's highest-grossing market is Italy, and plans are afoot to enter Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Production will remain in Asia, though. "It's not economical to manufacture in Eastern Europe," Jansson says.

Jansson keeps a tight grip on the company he founded in the mid-1980s. In the late '80s he sold out to an investment company that nearly pushed New Wave into bankruptcy. Jansson ended up buying it back for a symbolic one krona. A real bargain, considering New Wave now has a stock market capitalization of around €356 million.

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