Selling England by the Pound

June 2, 2008 | By Paul Mackenzie Ross | Filed in: business.

Selling England by the PoundWhen I threw down some thoughts here over the weekend about rip-off Britain I was pointing out that the term itself is like a beacon to those willing to make money out of this country. I finished my diatribe by taking a pot-shot at another term, foreign “investment” in this country for the reason that I see “investment” as a commonly flaunted positive to this country.

The term Investment is regularly bandied about as if whoever “invests” in this country is a hero, a saviour, as if all that money will simply safeguard jobs and ensure the future of the UK. Well, although this may be seen as schoolboy economics the basis of investment is the speculation that the money ploughed into a venture will make the investors money. That’s why I have a deposit account; I invest money in my account and earn the interest.

With big British companies and brands etc it’s not that simple; the value of investments can do down as well as up. But why would anybody invest in something that is going to go down in value? It has happened before and it will happen again, but on the whole investment is for making money. And so, if a foreign investor throws cash into a British institution, isn’t that wealth generated then directed out of the country?

Today as I open the front page of the BBC website I see that Virgin Radio is sold to India and American investors take 23% stake in Bradford & Bingley. So The Times of India bought Virgin at a knock-down price (a quarter of what it was bought for) and an American private equity firm is shoring up the bowler-hatted building society so that it can make money out of British mortgage payers. The B&B move is a pretty cynical one considering that arrears are up at B&B; there’s nothing like earning a few bob out of people’s misery is there?

Yes, that may be the way of the world that anyone can invest anywhere in this global economy and Britain has interests abroad too, so much hypocrisy can be read into my statements here, I appreciate & accept that. But shouldn’t Britain defend its own interests and brands, especially at a time when, because prices are tumbling due to the economic situation (apart from credit, goods, food & fuel that is) wily & wealthy foreigners will snap-up bargains from the ashes of our downfall? I will go grab a bargain at the end of the season but it’s in no way on the scale that the overseas grab is happening.

So here, let’s make a list of how we’re selling England by the pound; I’ll update this as and when I can.

  • Abbey, Alliance & Leicester, Bradford & Bingley (Santander Bank – Spain)
  • ARM (Softbank, Japan, 2016)
  • Harrods (Egypt)
  • Jaguar, Land Rover (Tata – India)
  • MG & Rover (China)
  • National Lottery (Canada)
  • O2 (Telefonica, Spain, 2005)
  • P&O (Dubai)
  • Raleigh (Accell, The Netherlands, 2002)
  • Rolls Royce (VW – Germany)
  • TVR (Russia – went bust)
  • Virgin Radio (India)

Energy & Utility Companies

  • British Energy, Eastern Electricity, London Energy, SEEB, SWEB (EDF – France)
  • Midlands Electricity/Powergen (E.on – Germany)

Food & Beverage

  • Cadbury (Kraft – USA, 2010)
  • Scottish & Newcastle Brewery (Heineken/Carlsberg, 2008)
Football Clubs
  • Chelsea (Roman Abramovitch – Russia)
  • Liverpool (USA)
  • Manchester City (UAE)
  • Manchester Utd (Malcolm Glazer – USA)
  • Portsmouth (Alexandre Gaydamak – Russia)
  • West Ham (Iceland)


  • Asda (Walmart, USA, 1999)
  • Fortnum & Mason (Canada, 1950)

The biggest problem with foreign ownership of supposedly British companies is that the profit flows abroad. Of course, we’ve benefited from a former empire and colonies but that role has reversed so that we are now seeing more than 50% of profits flow OUT of the country.

5 comments on “Selling England by the Pound

  1. …and, although it’s a nofollow, get some link juice when this blog gains some healthy PR? 😉

  2. Reading this blog made me feel quite sad. It seems the general Englishman loves his country more than the people running it. It is pure greed, but we can’t be sure it’s actually a bad thing for England. Only time will tell.

  3. Martin H: Sorry if that made you sad Martin, but British institutions are being sold off for the short-term benefits of greedy British owners for the long-term gain of foreign investors.

    I don’t have too much of a problem with foreign ownership because we do the same here, my point is that I fear the ratio is tipping well out of balance and I’m really not sure that it will be a good thing – Brits will not be their own masters. Jobs for Brits = great, but profits going out of the country = bad.

    A day will come when the waves rule Britannia!

    Marc Graves: Thanks Marc, I’m not a willing participant in certain aspects of the global economy and whilst I don’t subscribe to protectionism I believe there should be an element of that in every industry in every country, just to ensure that nations can be self-sufficient.

    As for China running the US economy, it looks like they’re taking over from the rich Arab nations, right?

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