The most important stock index in the U.K. is the FTSE 100, which tracks the performance of the 100 largest companies in the country based on market capitalisation. The index, which is pronounced commonly as the "Footsie 100," was created in January 1984. At that time, its baseline value was established at 1,000 points, although stock prices were calculated retroactively back to 1969.
In this article, we cover the 10 largest publicly traded companies in the U.K. by market capitalisation as of 7 November 2019 in U.S. dollars. Market cap is calculated by multiplying the number of the company's common shares outstanding by the market value of each share.
HSBC Holdings is the largest company in the U.K. based on market cap, at US$155.34 billion as of 7 November 2019. It is the fifth-largest bank in the world in terms of assets, at nearly US$2.6 trillion, and it was the largest bank based in Europe as of Dec. 12, 2017 .
Despite being based in London, the bank has always been focused on Asia since its founding in 1865. In fact, its original name was Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp. Today the company serves 40 million customers in 64 countries and territories.
BP is a large international energy company and the second-largest U.K. company by market cap at US$134.25 billion. The company was founded in 1889 and is based in London. The company does business in 79 countries around the world and employs more than 70,000 people.
3. BHP Group Limited
BHP is one of the world's top natural resources companies, and is the third-largest company by market cap, at US$125.88 billion. BHP Group was incorporated in 1885 and is headquartered in Melbourne, Australia. Its more than 72,000 employees and contractors live primarily in the Americas and Australia. The company is among the top producers of copper, iron ore and metallurgical coal in the world.It is also heavily invested in oil, gas and energy coal.
AstraZeneca is the fourth-largest U.K. company by market cap at US$120.73 billion, which also makes it one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. It was known as Zeneca Group PLC until April 1999 when its name was changed to AstraZeneca PLC. Its main areas of specialisation include oncology, respiratory and cardiovascular health, and neuroscience. Among its most well-known consumer products are Prilosec and Nexium for gastroenterology diseases. The company is based in Cambridge.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is another large pharmaceutical conglomerate that dates back to 1715 from its founding as a London apothecary shop. Today it employs about 100,000 people around the world.
In the consumer realm, the company focuses on oral health, nutrition and skin health. Among its most familiar brand name products are Sensodyne, Poligrip, and Theraflu. GSK is based in Brentford.
6. Rio Tinto Group
Rio Tinto Group is a large international mining and mineral processing company and the sixth-largest U.K. company by market cap, at US$94.24 billion.
Based in London, the company gets its name from the Rio Tinto River in Andalusia, Spain, where it was founded in 1873. It boasts 46,000 employees in 36 countries, and it produces iron ore, aluminum, copper,, diamonds and titanium.
Diageo, the seventh-largest U.K. company by market cap at US$93.27 billion, is a large international spirits company. It makes more than 200 different brands of liquor and beer that it markets in more than 180 countries globally.
Among its best known products are Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, Baileys, Captain Morgan, Tanqueray and Guinness. The company was founded in 1886 and is based in London.
8. British American Tobacco
London-based British American Tobacco (BAT) is the eighth-largest U.K. company, valued at US$84.23 billion as of 7 November 2019.
Founded in 1902, the company makes cigarettes, cigars, oral tobacco and nicotine products, as well as vapour and tobacco-heating products and e-cigarettes. Its signature brands include Dunhill, Kent, Lucky Strike, Pall Mall, Newport, Camel, Viceroy and Kool. The company employs more than 53,000 people worldwide and sells its products in more than 180 markets.
Vodafone is one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world and the ninth-largest company in the U.K. ranked by market cap, at US$56.39 billion.
Headquartered in Newbury, Vodafone provides mobile, fixed, broadband and television communications. Founded in 1985, when it said it made the first mobile call in the U.K., Vodafone has mobile operations in 24 countries, partners with mobile networks in 42 others, and offers fixed broadband in 19 markets. As of September 2019, it had about 625 million mobile customers, 27 million fixed broadband customers and 22 million TV customers.
10. Reckitt Benckiser Group
Reckitt Benckiser Group, another large household products company, ranks 10th in the U.K. terms of market cap at US$54.15 billion.
Based in Slough, the company makes a wide variety of household, toiletry, health and food products. They include disinfectant sprays and cleaners, dishwashing detergent, personal care products, food and over-the-counter drugs. Founded in 1823, its brands include Clearasil, Mucinex, Air Wick, Lysol and Woolite.
The most important stock index in the U.K. is the FTSE 100, which tracks the performance of the 100 largest companies in the country based on market capitalisation. The top 10 companies in the index as of January 2020 were well diversified, including Europe's largest bank, two multinational pharmaceutical giants, a global consumer products company, and two mining firms, among others.