The global nature of business means that who owns a company is no longer a simple question to answer. But despite suggestions that Britain's great brands are all gradually slipping into foreign hands, many companies still have Brits at their helm.
A recent article from the BBC's chief business correspondent, Linda Yueh, highlighted the rate at which businesses are changing hands and the global distribution of ownership that has become common among big brands.
Aston Martin, for example, is essentially back “in British hands” after Prodrive, a company based in Oxfordshire, led a consortium to buy the company back from Ford in 2007. Ms Yueh noted, however, that Ford maintained a ten per cent stake in the business and the majority of the finance for the deal came from investors in the US and Kuwait. Distributing ownership further, 37.5 per cent of the business was sold to an Italian private equity group last year.
The business correspondent commented on the situation: “Such is the way with big business today. A company from somewhere might be owned by another company from somewhere else, whose investors in turn come from all around the world.”
But British businesses are also taking part in this trend and are increasingly taking a hand in overseas businesses. Guinness and Smirnoff, for example, are cited by Yueh as well-known international brands that are actually owned by Diageo, a UK company listed and headquartered in London.
Last year we saw an increase in activity from overseas buyers looking to British companies as some economies returned to growth ahead of the UK. Figures from Cavendish Corporate Finance showed that there was an 86 per cent rise in overseas acquisitions of UK companies valued at less than £50 million.
British businesses have now caught up and in many cases are operating on an even ground against their foreign competitors, boding well for future acquisitions.