When Winston Churchill gave his 1946 speech The Sinews of Peace he described the close political, cultural and economic relationship between the United Kingdom and the USA, documenting the “special relationship” between the countries.
It’s a relationship that’s continued to grow, and you probably won’t be surprised to hear that Britain is currently the largest foreign investor in the US, and vice versa. In fact, over a quarter of all foreign investment in the UK comes from America, while at the end of 2011 the UK had invested nearly half a trillion dollars in the US, 17% of the country’s foreign direct investment (FDI).
Both the UK and the US have fundamentally “open economies”, which means they have low barriers to FDI, and both countries have taken full advantage of this. So much so that every state in the US has workers in jobs that have been created by British companies. In 2013, British companies employed upwards of 880,000 workers in the US.
We’re more than used to seeing US businesses crop up across the UK, but have you ever wondered which UK businesses have become household names in the States?
These UK-listed companies are among some of the most successful British foreign investments in the US.
Rolls-Royce is an iconic British car manufacturer and aero-engine manufacturing company, synonymous around the world with luxury. While recognised as quintessentially British (appearing in no less than 11 James Bond films), you may not know that the company employs over 7,000 people in the US and has invested over $1 billion (or £63m GBK), contributing towards the development of facilities across the country.
It may be best known for its cars, but Rolls-Royce serve North American customers in a variety of markets, including engineering, design and manufacturing of gas and diesel powered engines, and marine propulsion systems for commercial and naval customers.
The British telecommunications company is headquartered in London, but has grown to become the world’s second largest telecommunications company in the world. It currently operates in 21 countries, and once owned 45% of Verizon Wireless, in a joint venture with American broadband and telecommunications company Verizon Communications. In 2013, Vodafone sold its stake to Verizon Communications for a huge $130b (£86b GBK).
A fixture on every British high street, in recent years the Topshop brand has spread rapidly across the US. With a flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City, there are currently 85 stores across the country, with Arcadia owner Sir Philip Green keen to turn the store into a billion dollar business by 2018.
When you think of the biggest oil and gas companies in the US, you’d probably initially think of Exxon Mobil or Chevron. BP may stand for British Petroleum, but the US has the greatest concentration of both the company’s employees and investments. As of April 2014 there was around 20,000 BP employees the United States, it is the country’s sixth largest natural gas producer and since 2005 has invested over $90b (£60b GBK) in US oil, gas and renewables.
Not everyone’s a winner
When British grocery retailer Tesco opened its first Fresh & Easy stores on the West Coast of America in 2008, they expected to see a rapid growth. By December 2012 there were 199 stores, but in 2013 Tesco announced the stores would be abandoned, costing a not inconsequential £1.2b ($1.8b USD).
And across the pond…
Around a million Brits work for American companies in their home country, for companies including Google (which has headquarters in London and Manchester), Microsoft, Deloitte and J.P. Morgan. The US invests more in Britain than any other country, accounting for 27% of all foreign investments in 2013.
Having you been thinking about expanding your business to the US? To start with you may want to see how much your potential investment sum is worth in US dollars. For the most recent currency exchange rates, visit our Currency Converter .