It is surprising to see in a 2018 Toyo Keizai ranking how many of the 50 largest (by employee number) foreign owned companies in Japan are French (6), and how few are British (2 and are both pharmaceutical companies), considering the similar size of their economies. Switzerland is punching well above its weight with 5 companies, and Germany has stakes in 4.
Nissan is included in the rankings, and is the largest, although the French owned portion is 43.4%. Second is Gibraltar Life Insurance, which you may think you’ve never heard of, and is in fact a Japan only brand, formerly known as Kyoei, but acquired by US company Prudential Holdings in 2001.
In third place is Sharp – 65% owned by Taiwanese company Hon Hai/Foxconn. Others in the top 5 are Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus, 89.2% owned by German company Daimler and MetLife, another American insurance company, which became dominant in Japan through acquiring American Life Insurance Co (Alico) which had a significant business there.
Other European-owned companies in the rankings include:
#11 JATCO (France – a subsidiary of Nissan)
#12 UD Trucks (Sweden – acquired by Volvo in 2007)
#13 Bosch (Germany – acquired machinery business from Eisai in 2012)
#16 Chugai (Switzerland – Roche acquired controlling stake in 2017)
#19 Veolia Japan (France)
#22 Novartis (Switzerland)
#28 Glaxo Smith Kline (UK)
#30 NOK (Freudenberg capital partnership 25% – Germany)
#31 VSN (Staffing company acquired by Swiss company Adecco in 2012)
#32 AstraZeneca (UK)
#36 Ikea (Netherlands – yes, they moved their HQ from Sweden to the Netherlands)
#37 Bayer (Germany)
#38 Adecco (Switzerland)
#40 L’Oreal (France)
#40 Nestle (Switzerland)
#47 Sanofi (France)
#50 Valeo (France)
The only British owned company in the 51-100 rankings is Seiyo Food-Compass, the Japanese subsidiary through acquisition in 2001 of the food services Compass Group. Advertising agency Asatsu ADK is also in the top 100 but was acquired from British company WPP by Bain in December 2017.
If the UK is really looking to be a more global country post Brexit, making acquisitions in countries like Japan might be a way forward, but I guess the UK has become too used to acquisitions going the other way.
For an update for 2020 see our blog post here.
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