Overall, the value of exports from the United Kingdom declined by -9.9% from US$517.3 billion in 2011 to $465.9 billion during 2015.
In the analysis below, we compare the UK’s top 10 export businesses based on asset values, sales and profitability. Also specified is the city where each conglomerate has its headquarters.
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 2016 compared to 2015.
- BP (oil, gas): $261.8 billion, down -14.4%
- Rio Tinto (diversified metals & mining): $91.6 billion, down -17.5%
- GlaxoSmithKline (pharmaceuticals): $78.8 billion, up 13%
- BG Group (oil, gas): $61.8 billion, down -6.4%
- AstraZeneca (pharmaceuticals): $60.1 billion, up 7.5%
- Anglo American (diversified metals & mining): $52 billion, down -27%
- British American Tobacco (tobacco): $46.5 billion, up 4.4%
- Imperial Tobacco Group (tobacco): $45.7 billion, down -0.8%
- SABMiller (beverages): $42.3 billion, down -21.3%
- Diageo (beverages): $39.5 billion, down -1.7%
Only three of these conglomerates grew their asset values from 2015 to May 2016. Pharmaceuticals behemoths GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca expanded their asset bases by 13% and 7.5% respectively. British American Tobacco increased its assets by 4.4% in the one year period ending in May 2016.
The 7 other large UK businesses posted decreases in their asset size, ranging from a -0.8% decline for Imperial Tobacco Group to a -27% reduction for the diversified metals miner Anglo American.
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 year-over-year sales as of May 2016.
- BP: $218.7 billion, down -42.3%
- Imperial Tobacco Group: $39.1 billion, up 71.3%
- GlaxoSmithKline: $36.6 billion, down -11.7%
- Rio Tinto: $34.8 billion, down -32%
- AstraZeneca: $24.7 billion, down -3.9%
- SABMiller: $20.8 billion, up 18.6%
- Anglo American: $20.5 billion, down -30.2%
- British American Tobacco: $20 billion, down -16.2%
- BG Group: $19.3 billion, up 0.3%
- Diageo: $16.1 billion, down -9.2%
Imperial Tobacco Group posted the fastest increase in sales, up 71.3% from 2015, followed by beverages maker SABMiller (up 18.6%) and petroleum industry operator BG Group (up 3.9%).
Sales declines ranged from -0.3% for AstraZeneca to -42.3% for oil and gas industry leader BP.
Despite the slowing global economy, four of the UK’s top 10 major export companies were able to boost their bottom-line profit as of the latest May 2016 period.
- GlaxoSmithKline: $12.9 billion, up 51.4%
- British American Tobacco: $6.6 billion, up 7.4%
- Diageo: $3.8 billion, down -5.5%
- SABMiller: $3 billion, down -12.6%
- AstraZeneca: $2.8 billion, up 8.5%
- Imperial Tobacco Group: $2.6 billion, up 74%
- Rio Tinto: -$852.8 million, down -123%
- BG Group: -$1 billion, down -140%
- Anglo American: -$5.6 billion, up 525.6%
- BP: -$6.5 billion, down -127.4%
Buffered somewhat by its deep pockets, BP suffered the most severe loss at -$6.5 billion as of May 2016 compared to a $23.6 billion profit in 2015.
Eight 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 under a cloud of doubt in light of the Brexit vote on June 23, 2016.
- BP: London
- Rio Tinto: London
- GlaxoSmithKline: London
- BG Group: Reading
- AstraZeneca: London
- Anglo American: London
- British American Tobacco: London
- Imperial Tobacco Group: Bristol
- SABMiller: London
- Diageo: 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, Highest Value UK Export Products and UK Major Trade Balances with America
Forbes 2016 Global 2000 individual company profiles, Example of top UK company compiled for this study: BP. Accessed on July 15, 2016
Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on July 15, 2016
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on July 15, 2016
Wikipedia, Category:Companies of the United Kingdom. Accessed on July 15, 2016
Wikipedia, List of largest private companies in the United Kingdom. Accessed on July 15, 2016