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The 20 biggest UK companies by market cap

Published on: 07/03/2022 | Modified on: 20/09/2022

The United Kingdom is the sixth-largest economy in the world, and it has produced a number of large-cap and blue-chip stocks, which are listed on the London Stock Exchange and form part of the FTSE 100 stock index. Read on to discover the top 20 largest UK companies by market capitalisation and how you can get involved in spread betting or trading CFDs on their share prices.

Please note that past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.

KEY POINTS

  • The FTSE 100 is the UK’s benchmark stock index representing the country’s biggest market cap companies
  • It covers all sectors, including finance, healthcare, energy, consumer goods and technology
  • Most of these companies are considered of blue-chip value
  • Some share origins with other countries and are listed on more than one international exchange
  • The top 10 list is constantly changing as market prices fluctuate often
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What are the top FTSE 100 companies?

Company Sector Market cap
1 AstraZeneca (AZN) Pharmaceuticals £160.84bn
2 Shell (SHEL) Oil and gas £149.85bn
3 HSBC (HSBA) Finance £105.71bn
4 Unilever (ULVR) Consumer goods £92.51bn
5 GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Pharmaceuticals £87.43bn
6 Diageo (DGE) Beverages £80.68bn
7 British American Tobacco (BATS) Tobacco £78.04bn
8 BP (BP) Oil and gas £72.27bn
9 Rio Tinto (RIO) Mining £61.34bn
10 Glencore (GLEN) Mining £58.11bn
11 Reckitt Benckiser (RKT) Consumer goods £44.15bn
12 Anglo American (AAL) Mining £40.94bn
13 RELX (REL) Communications £40.85bn
14 London Stock Exchange (LSE) Finance £37.84bn
15 National Grid (NG) Utilities £37.31bn
16 Vodafone (VOD) Telecommunications £35.48bn
17 Lloyds Banking (LLOY) Finance £29.27bn
19 Compass Group (CPG) Hospitality £29.17bn
18 Prudential (PRU) Finance £25.70bn
20 Barclays (BARC) Finance £25.56bn

All companies are listed on the London Stock Exchange. Information is up to date as of June 2022.

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AstraZeneca is a British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical company that is a leader not only in the UK but worldwide. It has headquarters at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, which is the largest centre for health and medical research in Europe. The company was formed in 1999 through the merger of two existing pharmaceutical companies and has since expanded to acquire other businesses, such as MedImmune, Spirogen and Definiens. AstraZeneca focuses on areas of healthcare such as cancer research, respiratory and autoimmune diseases, and neuroscience. It has secondary listings on other exchanges including the NASDAQ OMX, Bombay Stock Exchange NASDAQ in New York.

2020 was a vital year for the company, as AstraZeneca managed to develop and distribute a vaccine to counteract the effects of Covid-19, in a joint partnership with Oxford University. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was approved and administered at the start of 2021, with an efficiency of 81.3% after the second dose.

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Shell (formerly known as Royal Dutch Shell) is an Anglo-Dutch oil and gas company that has headquarters in the Netherlands. It is one of the oil and gas supermajors and one of the largest companies in the world by revenue. Similar to BP, Royal Dutch Shell operates in all areas of the oil and gas industry, such as production, refining, transport, distribution and extraction of petrochemicals. The company produces around 3.7 million barrels of oil per day. It has a number of subsidiary companies across all five continents. Royal Dutch Shell has three listings on the LSE, Euronext Amsterdam, and NYSE.

Although the price of crude oil per barrel plummeted in March 2020, affecting the share prices of many oil stocks, it has soared once again in early 2022 due to tensions between Russia and the West. Whether it will overtake its all-time high of over $145, which it reached in 2008, is yet to be seen.

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HSBC is a multinational banking and financial services corporation. The company serves over 65 countries worldwide and it is the largest bank in Europe, as well as one of the largest globally. It originates back to the British Hong Kong region in 1865 and now has headquarters in London, still maintaining its strong relationship with the Asian markets. HSBC caters for commercial banking, global banking and investments, retail banking, private banking and wealth management services. As well as the LSE, it is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and NYSE, as well as being a constituent of the Hang Seng index.

Total profits and revenue for HSBC fell in 2020 by almost 30%, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This could be due to lower interest rates and failure to repay global debts and loans. However, these losses were partially offset by lower operating expenses.

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Unilever is a British-Dutch conglomerate consumer goods company. It owns over 400 brands, many of which are household names, such as Dove, Lipton, Magnum, Vaseline, Walls, Marmite and PG Tips. It was founded in 1929 and has headquarters in London and Rotterdam. In particular, its brands produce consumer goods relating to food, beverages, personal care, beauty, cleaning, healthcare and pharmaceuticals. Unilever products are available in over 190 countries worldwide. Unilever has three listings on the London Stock Exchange, New York Stock Exchange and Euronext Amsterdam. As well as making up part of the FTSE 100, it is also a constituent of the AEX index in Amsterdam and the Euro Stoxx 50.

Throughout 2020 and 2021, the company grew underlying sales despite the Covid-19 pandemic, which has had an effect on its beauty and grooming sectors, as well as food products that were impacted by channel closures.

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GlaxoSmithKline is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, established in 2000 from the merger of four other healthcare businesses. Self-described as a science-led company, GSK is involved in the research, development and manufacturing of medicines and vaccines, as well as consumer goods for the industry. The company focuses on HIV, respiratory diseases, oncology and immunology. Several of GSK’s products are listed on the WHO’s List of Essential Medicines, such as amoxicillin and mercaptopurine. The company also developed the first malaria vaccine in the world. It has a secondary listing on the NYSE.

In recent financial years, GlaxoSmithKline reported increases in total operating profit, which can be attributed to its decline in operating expenses. However, its group turnover could've been higher if its medicine and vaccine sales weren’t impacted by demand for the Covid-19 vaccine. It continues to pay a healthy dividend to investors in 2022.

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Diageo is a global producer of alcoholic beverages. Founded in 1997, it is one of the world’s largest distillers, operating in over 180 countries. Diageo owns more than 200 brands in a number of alcoholic sectors, which include Johnnie Walker (whiskey), Smirnoff (vodka), Captain Morgan (rum), Gordon’s (gin), Guinness (beer), Baileys (liqueur) and Don Julio (tequila), many of which are household names. The company also holds a large stake in the Moet Hennessy drinks division of French company LVMH. Its headquarters are located in West London and it has a secondary listing on the New York Stock Exchange.

Diageo's operating profits fell by 47% in 2020 due to lockdown restrictions and the closing of pubs, restaurants and bars where the company’s products are sold. The only region where sales increased was Diageo’s largest market, North America, where it witnessed a 2% organic net sales improvement. Since the easing of restrictions throughout 2021, Diageo appears to be back on track with pre-pandemic levels.

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British American Tobacco is a multinational manufacturer and retailer of tobacco. The company produces and sells cigarettes, tobacco and other nicotine-related products. It is the largest tobacco company in the world, based on net sales, which was founded in 1902 and headquartered in London. BAT operates in 180 countries worldwide and has secondary listings on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, as well as the NYSE. Some of its cigarette brand names include Lucky Strike, Pall Mall, Kent and Dunhill, and its reduced-risk products include vapours and oral pouches from Vype and Glo.

Although cigarette sales have been falling for years, British American Tobacco has adapted their products to meet the market’s increasing demand for risk-adverse products. Both its number of consumers sales of vapour and oral products have increased.

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BP is one of the world’s seven oil and gas ‘supermajors’, founded in 1902 and headquartered in London. Formerly known as The British Petroleum Company, it undertakes activity in all areas of the oil and gas industry, including exploration, refining, distribution, marketing and trading. BP has more than 180,000 service stations in locations worldwide and produces more than 3.8m barrels of oil each day. The company is also listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and NYSE and was featured in the Forbes Global 2000 in 2020, which measures the largest public companies in the world.

2020 and 2021 were challenging years for the oil and gas industries, as global demand for oil fell due to restrictions on travel and industrial activity, and BP saw its lowest revenue figure in over 16 years. The company has been at the centre of several major environmental incidents, including the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. As a result, BP is now expanding its renewable energy interests in biofuels, wind power and solar technology, so this may be a company to look out for, given the increasing demand for renewable energy sources.

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Rio Tinto is an Anglo-Australian mining company with headquarters in London. It is one of the world’s largest precious metals extractors and refiners, producing gold, diamonds, iron, aluminium and copper. The company was founded in 1873 by Spanish investors and it still operates to this day in Spain and other countries worldwide. Rio Tinto has multiple listings on the Australian Securities Exchange and NYSE, where it also listed on the S&P/ASX 200 stock index.

Rio Tinto has reported revenue increases in the past couple of years, despite the Covid-19 crisis and the destruction of the Juukan Gorge sacred caves in Australia, which caused huge public backlash and resulted in the CEO of the company stepping down in 2020. Following criticism from environmental groups on the company’s practises, Rio Tinto has also pledged to improve its climate change strategy in order to reach zero net emissions across operations by 2050.

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Glencore is an Anglo-Swiss commodity mining company that was formed in 2013 by the merger of Glencore and Xstrata. It has headquarters in Baar, Switzerland, with worldwide offices across 35 countries. It operates through two industrial and marketing business segments and has sites in 150 locations. The company produces and markets more than 60 commodities, including gold, silver, copper, crude oil, natural gas, iron ore, nickel, cobalt, and thermal coal. Glencore is also a market leader in the recycling of precious metals such as copper. Glencore is a constituent of the FTSE 100 index.

Despite dropping in value at the start of the global pandemic in 2020, Glencore recovered the following year and began trading at almost the same levels of its IPO back in 2011. This could be attributed to the rising demand of coal, as well as the company's ability to profit from volatile commodity prices.

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Pricing is indicative. Please note that past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.

Is it possible to trade for a living?

It is possible to make money trading, but it comes with many risks and extra costs that must be taken into consideration. Consult our section on ‘what else do you need to know’ before opening a potentially risky trade. After all, not all positions will end in profit.

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FAQs

How can I trade on UK shares?

You can trade on top UK stocks via a spread betting or CFD trading account. To learn about the differences between the two products and find out which is more suited to you, visit our article on spread betting vs CFDs.

What are some of the largest companies in the world?

Some of the largest companies in the world come from the US, such as tech giants Apple, Microsoft and Amazon, as well as international oil and gas companies Saudi Aramco and Sinopec. Read more about the different sectors of large-cap stocks.

Can I create a watchlist for the biggest companies?

You can create your own watchlists to monitor the top UK companies by market capitalisation, and we also offer a pre-built watchlist that tracks shares on the FTSE 100. Learn how to create stock watchlists on our Next Generation platform.

Are there any UK blue-chip stocks?

Most of the largest UK companies are considered to be of blue-chip status, which are defined as companies that were established many years ago and have a large consumer following, as well as a respected brand value. Read more about trading on blue-chip stocks.

What is the biggest brand in the UK?

The biggest brand in the UK is currently Cadbury, and it is also the fastest-growing brand. Sales for 2020 exceeded £1,682.1m, which is up 6.6% from the previous year. Cadbury is owned by Mondelēz International, an American food holding company. Read more about trading on Mondelez shares.


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