Image: © Pete Markham via Flickr

American companies are buying craploads of British businesses

Should we be worried?

It’s because our weak currency makes our businesses super-cheap for Yanks to buy.

What it means: In 2017-2018, US companies bought UK businesses worth £79 billion - more than twice what they spent on us the year before. The reason why is that our pound is currently cheap against the dollar, which means you can now swap a dollar for lots more pounds than you could before. Currencies move up and down for all sorts of reasons, but our cheap pound is being blamed on Brexit.

Having a cheap currency is often seen as a bad thing but it’s actually a little more complicated than that. A cheap pound makes it more expensive for us to go on holidays abroad, but it should also mean that foreigners will buy more say, Devonshire ice cream or Beefeater London gin because these products have become cheaper for them.

Plenty of people will also be happy that Americans are buying up our companies because they see this ‘foreign direct investment’ (FDI) as a good thing. FDI doesn’t just put foreign money into Britain, but also knowledge, skills and technology. If the new American owners use this know-how to grow and improve the businesses, they might hire more Brits and pay the British government more tax.

Of course, they might also fire British workers to ‘improve efficiency’ and move all their profits back to the States. And plenty of people find the idea of foreigners owning British stuff a bit icky - especially when said foreigners belong to a country whose President has a rep for pressuring business bosses to put ‘America first’.

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