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International Investing: The United Kingdom

Wednesday, 24 Oct 2007 | 1:24 PM ET

Country Overview: The United Kingdom is one of five trillion-dollar economies in western Europe. Its economic strength has allowed it to remain independent of the European Union, and public opinion polls have shown steady, substantial opposition to abandoning the pound for the euro.

Beginning with Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government in the 1980s, the government greatly reduced public ownership and held down the growth of social welfare programs.

Agriculture is intensive and highly mechanized, producing about 60% of the nation's food needs. The UK boasts large coal, natural gas and oil reserves, and primary energy production accounts for 10% of GDP, one of the highest shares of any industrial nation.

As is the case in many other Western nations, industry continues to decline in importance, with services dominating GDP. Improvements in education, transport and health services have brought higher taxes and a widening public deficit.
Source: CIA World Factbook, Reuters

What to Watch: There are more than $2 billion of foreign exchange turnovers each day in London -- 32 percent of the global share. And 70 percent of all Eurobonds trade here -- it has 20 percent of international bank lending and the world's leading market for international insurance.

The rest of the world is already in London in a big way. It has 40 percent of the global foreign equity market and 610 international companies listed on the London Stock Exchange. But with its first bank run in over 100 years, has the square mile taken a major knock to it's reputation?

"Let's see what the situation looks like in six to twelve months time -- but it hasn't helped," said Roger Nightingale with Millennium Asset Management.

The United Kingdom

2000 2006
Population 59.7 million 60.4 million
Economy
GNI Atlas method (current US$) 1.5 trillion 2.4 trillion
GNI per capita Atlas method (current US$) 25 010.0 40 180.0
GDP (current US$) 1.4 trillion 2.3 trillion
GDP growth (annual %) 4.0 2.8
Inflation GDP deflator (annual%) 1.2 2.4
Agriculture value added (% of GDP) 1.0 N/A
Industry value added (% of GDP) 1.0 N/A
Services etc. value added (% of GDP) 70.6 N/A
Exports of goods and services (% of GDP) 28.0 N/A
Imports of goods and services (% of GDP) 30.1 N/A
Gross capital formation (% of GDP) 17.5 N/A
Revenue excluding grants (% of GDP) 37.9 N/A
Cash surplus/deficit (% of GDP) 1.7 N/A
States and Markets
Time required to start a business (days) N/A 18
Market capitalization of listed companies (% of GDP) 178.6 N/A
Military expenditure (% of GDP) 2.4 N/A
Fixed line and mobile phone subscribers (per 1 000 people) 1 317.0 N/A
Internet users (per 1 000 people) 264.5 N/A
Roads paved (% of total roads) 100.0 N/A
High-technology exports (% of manufactured exports) 30.0 N/A
Global links
Merchandise trade (% of GDP) 43.6 44.5
Net barter terms of trade (2000 = 100) 100.0 104.3
Foreign direct investment net inflows (BoP current US$) 122.2 billion N/A
Workers' remittances and compensation of employees received (US$) 3.6 billion 7.3 billion
source: World Development Indicators database, April 2007

There are 255 foreign banks in London and 75 percent of Fortune 500 companies have offices here. And if for no other reason than having a time zone in the middle of the global business, it's hard to find anyone who has plans to leave soon.