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 an international trade perspective, the overall value of all export products from the United Kingdom decreased by -4.7% from US$511.1 billion in 2014 to $487.1 billion during 2018. From 2017 to 2018, the value of exported goods from the UK improved by 10.2%.
In the analysis below, we compare 10 of the UK’s top exports-oriented businesses based on asset values, sales and profitability. Also presented is the city where each conglomerate has its headquarters.
Generally, year-over-year trends for the top UK product producers show expanding profits and asset growth.
United Kingdom’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
Below are United Kingdom’s biggest exports-related 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 December 2018 compared to May 2017.
- BP (oil, gas): US$275.3 billion, up 4.6% from 2017
- British American Tobacco (tobacco): $190.8 billion, up 288.6%
- Rio Tinto (diversified metals & mining): $95.7 billion, up 7.2%
- GlaxoSmithKline (pharmaceuticals): $78.8 billion, up 7.9%
- AstraZeneca (pharmaceuticals): $63.4 billion, up 1.4%
- Anglo American (diversified metals & mining): $54.6 billion, up 9%
- Imperial Tobacco Group (tobacco): $42.5 billion, no change
- Diageo (beverages): $40.7 billion, up 8.8%
- BAE Systems (aerospace, defense): $30.4 billion, up 4.4%
- LyondellBasell Industries (diversified chemicals): $26.9 billion, up 14.8%
Nine of these British conglomerates grew their asset values from 2017 to December 2018. Leading the pack was British American Tobacco (up 288.6%) followed by diversified chemicals seller LynellBasell Industries (up 14.8%), diversified miner (Anglo American) then global beverages giant Diageo (up 8.8%).
Asset growth was stalled for Imperial Tobacco Group while pharmaceuticals provider AstraZeneca posted an anemic 1.5% increase compared to 2017.
Sales is the life blood for most businesses, and particularly for firms that compete in international trade. Seven of the United Kingdom’s largest exports-related companies increased their sales as of the 12-month period reported on December 2018.
- BP: US$251.9 billion, up 37.1% from 2017
- Rio Tinto: $40 billion, up 18%
- GlaxoSmithKline: $39.8 billion, up 5.9%
- LyondellBasell Industries: $35.8 billion, up 22.7%
- Anglo American: $26.2 billion, up 21.9%
- British American Tobacco: $26.1 billion, up 31.2%
- BAE Systems: $23.6 billion, down -1.7%
- AstraZeneca: $22.4 billion, down -2.6%
- Imperial Tobacco Group: $20.1 billion, down -48.7%
- Diageo: $15.7 billion, up 3.3%
Energy sector leader BP generated the fastest sales increase via a robust 37.1% uptick from 2017. In second place was British American Tobacco (up 31.2%) followed by diversified chemicals provider LyondellBasell (up 22.7%) then international miners Anglo American (up 21.9%) then Rio Tinto (up 18%).
Sales slowdowns ranged from -1.7% for defense industry titan BAE Systems, -2.6% for pharmaceuticals firm AstraZeneca to a sobering -48.7% decline for Imperial Tobacco Group.
Eight among the UK’s top exports-related businesses were able to boost their bottom-line profits as of the latest December 2018 period. The most significant profit acceleration belongs to energy sector leader BP via its 3,639% increase from $115 million in black ink as of May 2017.
- British American Tobacco: $48.3 billion, up 666.7% from 2017
- Rio Tinto: $8.7 billion, up 85.1%
- LyondellBasell Industries: $5.3 billion, up 38.4%
- BP: $4.3 billion, up 3,639%
- Diageo: $4.1 billion, up 28.1%
- Anglo American: $3.2 billion, up 100%
- AstraZeneca: $3 billion, down -18.9%
- Imperial Tobacco Group: $1.6 billion, up 78.6%
- GlaxoSmithKline: $1.4 billion, up 16.7%
- BAE Systems: $1.1 billion, down -10.6%
There was profit shrinkage for two of the above companies, specifically the -10.6% drop for aerospace and defense firm BAE Systems the -18.9% year-over-year profit erosion for pharmaceuticals developer AstraZeneca.
Nine of the 10 largest UK export companies are based in London, England — a city once 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 precariously scheduled for March 29, 2019.
- Anglo American: London
- AstraZeneca: London
- BAE Systems: London
- BP: London
- British American Tobacco: London
- Diageo: London
- GlaxoSmithKline: London
- Imperial Tobacco Group: Bristol
- LyondellBasell Industries: London
- 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 instance, consider BP. In addition to selling fossil fuels, BP also makes petrochemicals products used to make everyday items as diverse as paints, clothes and packaging.
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, United Kingdom’s Top 10 Imports and European Union’s Top 10 Exports
Data.World Forbes Global 2000 2016 , Spreadsheet for 2016 Global 2000 rankings. Accessed on October 1, 2019
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies for the UK. Accessed on October 1, 2019
Forbes 2017 Global 2000 individual company profiles, Example of top UK company compiled for this study: BP. Accessed on October 1, 2019
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on October 1, 2019
MarketWatch BAE Systems PLC ADR, Financials (including 2016 assets). Accessed on October 1, 2019
NASDAQ LyondellBasell Industries NV Stock Report, Financials (including assets as of March 31, 2017). Accessed on October 1, 2019
Wikipedia, Category:Companies of the United Kingdom. Accessed on October 1, 2019
Wikipedia, List of largest private companies in the United Kingdom. Accessed on October 1, 2019