1. ITV Report

Is Britain still British owned?

Some of our best loved British brands, including HP Sauce, Heathrow Airport and Cadbury are now foreign owned.

A third of the UK's infrastructure including energy and transport is owned overseas.

And of the top British quoted companies in the UK, more than half the investment in those companies is by foreign investors.

Some argue that it is vital for our jobs and wages that Britain remains such an attractive place for foreign investment.

Others are concerned that we have given up control of the country's "crown jewels".

Many home grown brands in our weekly shop our now controlled by overseas firms

"We have a very weak takeover code, ultimately shareholders take the final decision, there isn’t any due regard to the interest of the workforce or the public interest. And so you end up with a situation where you make shareholders potentially even richer, but see loss of jobs, worse terms and conditions, and of course the community having no say at all."

– FRANCES O’GRADY, TUC General Secretary
4 of the UK’s so called “big six” energy suppliers are foreign owned, including the state owned French firm EDF

"These are things that are really part of the fabric of the nation. I don’t think they should be in foreign hands and I think it’s a danger that they’re in foreign hands"

– ALEX BRUMMER, Author of “Britain for Sale”

One of the most controversial foreign takeovers in recent years was the sale of British confectionary maker Cadbury.

For decades, Cadbury was known for the generous conditions and social benefits it provided for its workforce.

But the acquisition of the firm in 2010 was met with anger and disappointment by many workers.

And Kraft later closed Cadbury's Bristol factory, in spite of an earlier promise to keep it open.

Kraft Food, now rebranded as Mondelez International, says it is planning a 75 million pound investment which would secure the future of the Bournville factory in Birmingham and the next generation of manufacturing.

But while Cadbury is still a well loved brand, it is no longer a British company in its own right.

That has led to accusations from the Unite Union that the government is "impotent" in being able to deal with foreign acquisitions.

"The reality is if we keep losing our major British companies to foreign investors, and they then take the intellectual rights and the revenues from those companies abroad, then eventually the British economy will suffer. Jobs will suffer. And the British economy will be less able to bounce back from recessions as it’s struggling to do currently."


In the car industry foreign investment has helped to save and create jobs.

Jaguar Land Rover was bought by the Indian group TATA five years ago, and has since enjoyed record success.

Former Director General of the CBI Lord Digby Jones is a corporate ambassador for the firm.

He says JLR's story proves that firms can still be British, even if they are no longer British owned.

Lord Digby Jones is a former Director General of the CBI and was UK Trade & Investment Minister from 2007-2008

"The nationality of it really doesn’t matter and when you think that JLR is seen as a British company, it behaves like a British company, and what’s more internally it’s treated as a British company. You know, people don’t actually internally at JLR think of it as part of Mumbai."

– LORD DIGBY JONES, Former CBI Director General
Many of the buildings on the London skyline are foreign owned

Currently the Government can only intervene in takeovers when national security, financial stability or media plurality are threatened.

But the Business Secretary Vince Cable would like the powers to go further.

The Business Secretary Vince Cable would like extra powers over certain takeover deals

"There is an ambiguous area which is called the public interest test, and I think we should certainly have in reserve a power for ministers to intervene where there is a genuine national interest, particularly around science and where we have a big capability in research and development."


Britain is also a major investor in companies overseas, making it one of the biggest spenders when it comes to foreign investment.

"France - one of the key brands is Moet champagne. A third of that is owned by Diageo, a British business, so there’s an example in reverse. I think we’ve got to put these issues into context and not get out of proportion. We invest more overseas than foreign companies invest in us."

– Professor DOMINIC SWORDS, Henley Business School
Tonight: Who Owns Britain?

ITV News Business Editor Joel Hills investigates Who Owns Britain - Tonight at 7.30pm on ITV.