The rise of foreign owned City businesses in the UK

Five questions answered.

A new report has revealed that the UK has a large percentage of foreign owned City businesses, indicating that the UK is viewed as a viable investment by overseas firms. We answer five questions on foreign investment in the UK.

What is the current per cent of foreign-owned financial services businesses in the UK?

According to a new report published by MAS, an independent M&A adviser, which was produced in conjunction with UK Trade & Investment, the government’s export agency, 46 per cent of UK financial services companies worth more than £100m are overseas owned.

In 2011 and 2012 the most active acquirers of UK financial services firms were overseas-owned businesses. Eighty per cent of those already had existing UK operations at the time of investing, which suggests they are committed to investing in Britain for the long-term.

Which foreign country is the biggest investor?

America. Over 47 per cent of all foreign investments in the UK are from the US, companies from which see the UK as a spring board into the rest of Europe.

What do these figures say about how overseas businesses view the UK financial market place?

The report says that these figures suggest that the UK financial market is viewed as an attractive market for companies looking to expand their business operations. It is thought this is because the UK is well placed to take advantage of emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, India and China, all of whom increased their investment in the UK by 29pc in the last year.

What do the experts says?

Olly Laughton-Scott, founding partner of IMAS, told The Telegraph: “The report reflects how extraordinarily open UK business is to overseas investment. America, with its huge financial services economy, is using the UK as its springboard into Europe. As America expands its interests, it will place more emphasis on the UK.”

He added: “As Asia becomes truly globalised, this will play to London’s strengths; they will come to Britain. China [investment] has grown the most rapidly over the last year and as financial services becomes increasingly globalised, we will see the largest proportion of that investment come to the UK.”

How is the financial services market doing in general?

According to the UK trade minister, Lord Green, who spoke to The Telegraph, the UK remains the number one destination for financial services investment in Europe.

The IMAS also offered a positive outlook by saying that retrenchment that has taken place since the credit crisis seems over and the sharp drop in the number of authorised financial services that occurred in 2008 is slowing considerably. However, some quality people are said to have left the industry due to a new rule change that requires independent advisers to register with the Financial Services Authority.

Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for

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Why Theresa May won't exclude students from the net migration target

The Prime Minister believes the public would view the move as "a fix". 

In a letter to David Cameron shortly after the last general election, Philip Hammond demanded that students be excluded from the net migration target. The then foreign secretary, who was backed by George Osborne and Sajid Javid, wrote: "From a foreign policy point of view, Britain's role as a world class destination for international students is a highly significant element of our soft power offer. It's an issue that's consistently raised with me by our foreign counterparts." Universities and businesses have long argued that it is economically harmful to limit student numbers. But David Cameron, supported by Theresa May, refused to relent. 

Appearing before the Treasury select committee yesterday, Hammond reignited the issue. "As we approach the challenge of getting net migration figures down, it is in my view essential that we look at how we do this in a way that protects the vital interests of our economy," he said. He added that "It's not whether politicians think one thing or another, it's what the public believe and I think it would be useful to explore that quesrtion." A YouGov poll published earlier this year found that 57 per cent of the public support excluding students from the "tens of thousands" target.

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, has also pressured May to do so. But the Prime Minister not only rejected the proposal - she demanded a stricter regime. Rudd later announced in her conference speech that there would be "tougher rules for students on lower quality courses". 

The economic case for reform is that students aid growth. The political case is that it would make the net migration target (which has been missed for six years) easier to meet (long-term immigration for study was 164,000 in the most recent period). But in May's view, excluding students from the target would be regarded by the public as a "fix" and would harm the drive to reduce numbers. If an exemption is made for one group, others will inevitably demand similar treatment. 

Universities complain that their lobbying power has been reduced by the decision to transfer ministerial responsibility from the business department to education. Bill Rammell, the former higher education minister and the vice-chancellor of Bedfordshire, said in July: “We shouldn’t assume that Theresa May as prime minister will have the same restrictive view on overseas students that Theresa May the home secretary had”. Some Tory MPs hoped that the net migration target would be abolished altogether in a "Nixon goes to China" moment.

But rather than retreating, May has doubled-down. The Prime Minister regards permanently reduced migration as essential to her vision of a more ordered society. She believes the economic benefits of high immigration are both too negligible and too narrow. 

Her ambition is a forbidding one. Net migration has not been in the "tens of thousands" since 1997: when the EU had just 15 member states and the term "BRICS" had not even been coined. But as prime minister, May is determined to achieve what she could not as home secretary. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.