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Irish firms in top five UK foreign business owners

Irish-based companies are among the biggest foreign owners of UK firms, ahead of Japan and well ahead of rising powerhouse China.

More than one-in-four of the UK’s most important businesses are foreign owned, according to figures from the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The data shows as many as 24,145 UK businesses are owned by companies based elsewhere.

In simple terms it is equivalent to just 1.1pc of the total number of businesses registered in the UK, but foreign-owned companies are more likely to be larger.

Data for businesses employing more than 250 people show the rate of foreign ownership rises to 27pc.

Irish companies own more than 1,200 large UK businesses, with a combined turnover of £32bn (€37bn) in 2015. Those businesses contributed approximately £7bn (€8bn) in gross value added to the UK economy, according to UK statistics.

Brexit has huge implications for the €1bn-a-week two-way trade between the UK and Ireland, but won’t inhibit Irish businesses’ ability to own and manage companies in the UK.

Currently US companies, which have never shared a common market with the UK, own more UK firms than those of any other country.

US-based companies owned 5,378 UK firms with a combined turnover of £330bn in 2015 – the latest year figures are available for. Second on this list was Germany with 1,824 businesses, France with 1,497 and the Netherlands on 1,463.

Ireland ranked fifth, ahead of Japan and far ahead of China.

The UK has long been the first new market for Irish businesses expanding abroad. Bank of Ireland’s substantial UK unit is funded on a standalone basis and adds up to around 40pc of the bank’s entire balance sheet. Irish headquartered Greencore’s operations in the UK are bigger than in its home market. Greencore, headed up by Patrick Coveney, had warned that Brexit could see it increase investment in the UK to ensure its local arms have full access to the market there.

Industrial groups including Glen Dimplex and DCC have long been buyers and owners of UK businesses. Despite being the world’s number two economy, Chinese firms owned a handful of UK businesses at 106. That was up 20.5pc between 2014 and 2015. Hong Kong companies, many with links to mainland China, are also expanding the number of businesses they own in the UK at a rapid pace – up by 25.6pc over the same period.
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