Slator released the Slator 2021 Language Service Provider Index (LSPI) at the beginning of March 2021, the fourth annual iteration of our flagship index. Currently featured in the Slator 2021 LSPI are 186 language service providers (LSPs) ranked by 2020 (USD) revenue.
The combined revenues of Slator 2021 LSPI companies grew 11.6% in 2020 to USD 7.8bn (2020 LSPI: USD 6.99bn) — an attractive headline rate given the practical and macroeconomic challenges posed by Covid-19 in the past year.
Overall, the LSPs that participated in the Slator 2021 LSPI proved overwhelmingly resilient in 2020. Drilling down further reveals a somewhat mixed bag of results: 59% of LSPs reported positive growth; 15% remained flat, managing to match 2019 revenues; and a little over a quarter reported declining revenues.
On a segment basis, growth among the Super Agencies was 15.5%, compared to Leaders at 9.9%, Challengers, 8.3%, and Boutiques, 9.8%.
While none of the five Super Agencies reported revenue declines in 2020, 24% of Leaders, 30% of Challengers, and 27% of Boutiques saw revenues fall from 2019.
Below, we look at the fastest growing LSPs by percentage and US dollar terms in 2020, highlighting some of the main growth drivers for Slator LSPI companies.
Unsurprisingly, most of the top 10 fastest growing LSPs by percentage in 2020 were Boutiques (70%) — those with revenues from USD 1–8m. As the smallest revenue segment in the LSPI, Boutique companies achieve higher percentage growth more easily than their larger rivals. Although the fastest growing by percentage, the seven Boutiques added no more than USD 3m to their top-line revenues in 2020.
Aside from the seven Boutique LSPs, one Super Agency, one Leader, and one Challenger made it into the top 10 fastest growing list.
- Acolad Group, the only LSP to appear on both growth lists (i.e., percentage and dollar), did so by acquiring major rival AMPLEXOR. Through the deal, Acolad entered the Super Agency category, becoming the largest LSP in Continental Europe.
- US-based Language Link was the only Leader to feature on the fastest growing list in 2020. Its core services include over-the-phone interpreting (OPI) and video remote interpreting (VRI), both of which were high-growth niches in 2020, as Covid-19 lockdowns stemmed the flow of demand for onsite interpreting. Language Link’s 55% growth saw the company graduate from Challenger to Leader in 2020.
- Meanwhile, Challenger LinguaLinx grew 85.7% in 2020 to USD 16.5m. The New York-based LSP previously featured on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing US-based companies, but not since 2016.
While percentage-growth rankings favor Boutique LSPs, dollar-based analysis of 2020 growth puts Super Agencies and Leaders in the spotlight.
Four of the ten biggest growth companies were Super Agencies (i.e., full-service, multi-vertical LSPs with more than USD 200m in annual revenues) and six were Leaders (LSPs with over USD 25m in revenues not classed as Super Agencies). Seven of the ten biggest growth companies are headquartered in the US.
Although there was a mix of growth drivers for these companies, the biggest single growth driver was acquisitions. Acolad and RWS grew through transformative M&A (buying AMPLEXOR and SDL, respectively). TransPerfect expanded through a mix of organic and acquisitive growth, with M&A from 2019 accounting for more than half of their USD 89m growth in 2020.
BIG Language Solutions is new to the 2021 LSPI. BIG grew from being a PE-backed brand name in 2019 to a fully-fledged LSP in 2020, when it reported revenues from portfolio companies Protranslating (acquired 2019) and ISI Language Solutions (acquired 2020).
US-based interpreting heavyweights LanguageLine, Stratus Video, and CyraCom all reported strong growth in 2020, as the shift to remote interpreting ramped up during Covid-19, and the need for timely and accurate public health and safety information intensified.
Remote interpreting dominated the service mix of Teleperformance-owned interpreting giant LanguageLine in 2020, with OPI and VRI contributing more than 90% to top-line revenues (81% and 10%, respectively). Onsite interpreting took a backseat (3%) and document translation accounted for the rest (5%).
Stratus Video (which was acquired by AMN Healthcare in February 2020) noted an increasing need for telehealth solutions linked to Covid-19, particularly for remote interpreting, in Q2 2020. According to AMN’s 2020 full year results, the interpreting division grew 29% (or USD 31m) year-on-year.
As the largest owner-operated interpreting provider in the LSPI, CyraCom also delivered strong growth, amounting to USD 16m, in 2020. The OPI and VRI specialist was yet another beneficiary of the Covid-related shift to remote in interpreting services.
Gaming, Data for AI, and More
Serial acquirer and gaming specialist Keywords Studios said almost all of its USD 90m growth in 2020 was organic, linked to increased demand for gaming services (including game localization) during the lockdowns.
A major story in 2020 was Super Agency Lionbridge’s sale of its data-for-AI division to Canada-based TELUS. Lionbridge’s AI division contributed around USD 200m to the LSP’s topline in 2020, prior to the completion of the sale in December 2020. The division grew 29% in 2019 and an estimated 20% in 2020.
Skipping forward a few time zones, President Translation Service Group International (PTSGI) continues to be one of the largest Asia-based LSPs by revenue. Headquartered in Taiwan, PTGSI has branches in Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Singapore, and Bangkok, as well as LA and London.
PTGSI’s growth appeared unaffected by Covid-19 and the company reported revenues equivalent to USD 118m in 2020, an increase of around 9% from 2019.
To explore the LSPI companies and learn more about the 185+ LSPs currently featured, head over to the interactive Slator 2021 LSPI. The LSPI is dynamic and will be updated throughout the year with additional supplementary information.
Please get in touch with us if you are not included and would like to participate.