United Kingdom’s Top 10 Major Export Companies

Tower Bridge London England

London’s Tower Bridge

Britain’s 10 largest export companies represent a diverse range of distinct industries: tobacco, diversified metals and mining, energy, pharmaceuticals, chemicals as well as the aerospace and defense sector.

From a macroeconomic perspective, the overall value of all export products from the United Kingdom declined by -14.5% from US$481.2 billion in 2012 to $411.5 billion during 2016.

In the analysis below, we compare the UK’s top 10 export-oriented businesses based on asset values, sales and profitability. Also specified is the city where each conglomerate has its headquarters.

The general trend for the top UK product producers is declining sales and shrinking profits.

United Kingdom’s Top 10 Major Export Companies


Below are United Kingdom’s biggest export companies organized by asset value. Shown within parentheses is the primary industry in which each company operates. Also shown is the change in asset value as of May 2017 compared to May 2016.

  1. BP (oil, gas): US$263.3 billion, up 0.6% from 2016
  2. Rio Tinto (diversified metals & mining): $89.3 billion, down -2.5%
  3. GlaxoSmithKline (pharmaceuticals): $73 billion, down -7.4%
  4. AstraZeneca (pharmaceuticals): $62.5 billion, up 4%
  5. Anglo American (diversified metals & mining): $50.1 billion, down -3.7%
  6. British American Tobacco (tobacco): $49.1 billion, up 5.6%
  7. Imperial Tobacco Group (tobacco): $42.5 billion, down -7%
  8. Diageo (beverages): $37.4 billion, down -5.3%
  9. BAE Systems (aerospace, defense): $29.1 billion, up 23.6%
  10. LyondellBasell Industries (diversified chemicals): $23.4 billion, down -1.4%

Four of these British conglomerates grew their asset values from 2016 to May 2017. Leading the pack was aerospace and defense monolith BAE Systems (up 23.6%) followed by British American Tobacco (up 5.6%), pharmaceuticals firm AstraZeneca (up 4%) then oil and gas titan BP (up 0.6%).

Asset declines ranged from -7.4% for GlaxoSmithKline down to -1.4% for LyondellBasell Industries, a diversified chemicals seller.


Sales is the life blood of all business, but particularly for firms that compete in international trade. Yet only three of United Kingdom’s largest export companies increased their sales over the 12-month period reported on May 2017.

  1. BP: US$183.8 billion, down -16% from 2016
  2. Imperial Tobacco Group: $39.2 billion, up 0.3%
  3. GlaxoSmithKline: $37.6 billion, up 2.7%
  4. Rio Tinto: $33.9 billion, down -2.6%
  5. LyondellBasell Industries: $29.2 billion, down -10.9%
  6. BAE Systems: $24 billion, down -6.4%
  7. AstraZeneca: $23 billion, down -6.9%
  8. Anglo American: $21.5 billion, up 4.9%
  9. British American Tobacco: $19.9 billion, down -0.5%
  10. Diageo: $15.2 billion, down -5.6%

Diversified metals and mining company Anglo American posted the fastest increase in sales via a modest 4.9% uptick from 2016. In second place was pharmaceuticals titan GlaxoSmithKline (up 2.7%) followed by Imperial Tobacco Group (up 0.3%).

Sales declines ranged from -0.5% for another big tobacco multinational British American Tobacco up to -16% for the UK’s largest product exporting company BP.


Among the UK’s top 10 major export companies, AstraZeneca was able to boost its bottom-line profit via an impressive 32.1% gain as of the latest May 2017 period.

  1. British American Tobacco: US$6.3 billion, down -4.5% from 2016
  2. Rio Tinto: $4.7 billion, reversing a -$852.8 million loss
  3. LyondellBasell Industries: $3.8 billion, down -14.3%
  4. AstraZeneca: $3.7 billion, up 32.1%
  5. Diageo: $3.2 billion, down -15.8%
  6. Anglo American: $1.6 billion, reversing a -$5.6 billion loss
  7. BAE Systems: $1.2 billion, down -1.2%
  8. GlaxoSmithKline: $1.2 billion, down -90.7%
  9. Imperial Tobacco Group: $896 million, down -65.5%
  10. BP: $115 million, reversing a -$6.5 billion loss

Two diversified metals and mining firms turned from a loss in 2016 to a profit as of May 2017: Rio Tinto posted a $4.7 billion profit while Anglo American recorded $1.6 billion in black ink. Similarly, giant oil and gas conglomerate BP went from posting a -$6.5 billion loss for 2016 to achieving a $11.5 million profit during 2017.

Profit declines for the remaining 6 businesses ranged from -90.7% for GlaxoSmithKline and -65.5% for Imperial Tobacco Group down to -12.3% for BAE Systems and -4.5% for British American Tobacco.


Nine of the 10 largest UK export companies are based in London, England — a city considered to be the gateway to the European Union. This notion has been cast under a cloud of doubt in light of the UK’s upcoming Brexit breakaway from the EU scheduled for March 29, 2019.

  1. Anglo American: London
  2. AstraZeneca: London
  3. BAE Systems: London
  4. BP: London
  5. British American Tobacco: London
  6. Diageo: London
  7. GlaxoSmithKline: London
  8. Imperial Tobacco Group: Bristol
  9. LyondellBasell Industries: London
  10. Rio Tinto: London


Note some of the above company offerings may include products other than the principal category shown within parenthesis under the Assets tab.

For example, BG Group not only produces natural gas and oil but also is involved in power generation. Similarly, AstraZeneca is a global research-based biopharmaceutical firm that also tests and develops new medications.

See also United Kingdom’s Top 10 Exports, United Kingdom’s Top Trading Partners, UK Major Trade Balances with America, United Kingdom’s Top 10 Imports and European Union’s Top 10 Exports

Research Sources:
Data.World Forbes Global 2000 2016 , Spreadsheet for 2016 Global 2000 rankings. Accessed on January 19, 2018

Forbes 2017 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on January 19, 2018

Forbes 2017 Global 2000 individual company profiles, Example of top UK company compiled for this study: BP. Accessed on January 19, 2018

MarketWatch BAE Systems PLC ADR, Financials (including 2016 assets). Accessed on January 19, 2018

NASDAQ LyondellBasell Industries NV Stock Report, Financials (including assets as of March 31, 2017). Accessed on January 19, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on January 19, 2018

Wikipedia, Category:Companies of the United Kingdom. Accessed on January 19, 2018

Wikipedia, List of largest private companies in the United Kingdom. Accessed on January 19, 2018