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14 March, 2022updated 13 Mar 2022 10:24

Where do the world’s top companies have subsidiaries?

The leading international companies have created more than 370,000 subsidiaries globally. The US is the top market for both domestic and foreign subsidiary creation.

By Glenn Barklie

The establishment of subsidiaries is an important vehicle for corporate expansion activity and therefore a crucial component of cross-border as well as domestic investment. While there is much variance in how much value a subsidiary creates for its host country and how many jobs, if any, it might create, the choice of location for legal subsidiaries still tells us much about global business patterns and preferences.

The US market is the dominant force. It has the highest number of international companies included in the analysis as well as the most domestic and foreign subsidiaries.

This year we have extended our multinational companies database to analyse the subsidiaries of more than 6,000 international companies. Our previous analysis covered the top 2,000. In total, 370,320 subsidiaries were found for 6,186 leading companies. These companies were headquartered across 77 different countries. More than one-quarter (27.5%) were based in the US, while one-fifth called China home.

You can use the interactive map below to uncover where the world’s biggest companies, by sector, have subsidiaries.

Where are top international companies headquartered?

A subsidiary is a company that is either owned or controlled by another company (its parent company). According to Chron.com, companies may create a subsidiary for various reasons including brand recognition, financial considerations, the ability to raise capital, and the capacity to deal with reporting and disclosure issues. The US and China are the largest sources of global companies. Of the 6,186 companies analysed, 1,700 were from the US and 1,272 from China.

What is the sector breakdown of the top international companies?

The companies evaluated covered 30 primary industries – the main industry in which a company operates. Almost one in six companies analysed were in the technology and communications sector. Financial services companies accounted for 14.4% of all companies, while there were 713 construction companies (11.5%).

Which companies have the most subsidiaries?

Of the 6,186 companies analysed, Vinci, a French construction company, recorded the largest number of subsidiaries (2,689). Two other construction companies, Ventas (1,877 subsidiaries) and Welltower (1,420), were also listed in the top ten. Seven of the top ten companies were headquartered in the US, while 13 companies had more than 1,000 subsidiaries.

Almost three-quarters (71%) of all companies analysed had 50 subsidiaries or less.

In which countries are the most subsidiaries created?

The US was the dominant destination for subsidiaries. There were 101,234 subsidiaries aligned to the multinational companies located in the country. This equated to 27% of the total number of subsidiaries. Additionally, another six of the top country destinations by number of subsidiaries are some of the largest economies (by GDP) – China, the UK, Germany, France, Japan and Canada. This attests that companies are typically market-seeking. While Australia and the Netherlands sit just outside the top ten countries by GDP, that is more to do with their smaller populations. In fact, their GDP per capita values are higher than many of the aforementioned countries, showing they are highly productive.

Asia-Pacific and North America are the key destination regions for subsidiary establishment. There were 110,550 subsidiaries established in Asia and 107,764 created in North America. Western Europe was the next most popular destination, with 101,422 subsidiaries.

Leading companies are rather split when determining where to establish their additional operations. Just over half (52.2%) of all subsidiaries recorded by our database were domestic, and just under half (47.8%) were foreign inaugurations.

The headquarter country of the company appears to have an impact. Companies in large economies such as the US, China and Japan had significantly more domestic subsidiaries compared with foreign operations. In fact, for all three countries, about 80% of their leading companies’ subsidiaries were domestic. This tells us that many of these companies do not feel the need to expand (as much) internationally as their large domestic market serves their needs.

On the other hand, countries with smaller populations such as Switzerland, Hong Kong and Canada have a lot more foreign subsidiaries than domestic. Their smaller populations lead to a smaller number of companies compared with larger countries. Switzerland and Hong Kong, in particular, are attractive foreign direct investment (FDI) locations due to talent workforce, favourable tax regimes and access to markets (among others).

Others, such as the UK, Australia, Taiwan, South Korea and France, witness an almost equal measure of foreign and domestic companies. These countries have considerable domestic markets and are also attractive FDI destinations.

Methodology

GlobalData has compiled a list of top international companies based on revenue. Any top companies that did not have a subsidiary were removed from the list. The latest company annual reports (2020 and 2021, where available) and websites were analysed for a total of 6,186 companies. For a subsidiary to be included, the parent company had to have a majority ownership/control in the subsidiary. Affiliates, associates, joint operations and joint ventures were included as long as the ownership criteria was met. Subsidiary information was captured at a country level. Country names were standardised. In total, 370,320 subsidiaries were captured.

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