British companies rush to sell off foreign assets

British companies have been selling their foreign assets at the fastest rate since the start of the century, new officials figures revealed on Tuesday.

The number of outward disposals, where British companies sell off a majority stake in a foreign subsidiary, hit 23 over the third quarter of 2019, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed.

The combined value of these deals were £10.1 billion, the highest since the same three-month period in 2000, when deals hit £15.3 billion, the data shows.

It came as a weak pound helped British companies, selling assets in dollars or euros, get a bigger return due to favourable exchange rates.

The figure is also a rise of £9.3 billion from the previous quarter, when deals only reached £0.8 billion, the data shows.

Meanwhile, the value of inward mergers and acquisitions (M&A), where foreign companies based abroad buy British ones, fell by £8.5 billion from the quarter before to £10.1 billion in the last three months.

However this is a £2.7 billion increase on the same period last year.

“The latest figures show that inward M&A has slowed in the UK as investors wait for greater political and economic certainty before making decisions to commit to the country,” said Nicole Kar, a partner at law firm Linklaters.

After plummeting in the wake of the Brexit referendum in 2016, the pound had recovered most of its lost ground at the start of last year. However since then a downward trajectory pushed the currency to two-year lows in August.

Separate data from the ONS showed that the amount foreign companies made from their UK investments soared 26% to £72.7 billion last year.

But British companies investing abroad fared less well, increasing their earnings from £88.1 billion in 2017 to £94.1 billion in 2018.