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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 June 2006, 18:33 GMT 19:33 UK
UK top of inward investment table

By Evan Davis
BBC economics editor

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02 is one UK firm that has recently been sold overseas
The UK received more inward investment than any other country last year, according to newly released internationally-compiled figures.

The Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said foreign direct investment into the UK hit a record $165bn (91bn) in 2005.

It was driven up by the boom in takeovers of British companies.

In recent years, UK firms bought by overseas groups include O2, Abbey National and ports firm P&O.

Unprecedented cash flow

British companies like these are all the rage around the world at the moment - everybody's buying them.

So much so, that the global league table of where the cash for long-term investment is parking itself, shows the UK beating China and the US to the top place.

Foreign cash is flowing in at an unprecedented rate - either buying British companies, or occasionally creating new ones.

Long gone are the days when people said the country's failure to join the euro would cause foreign investment to dry up.

And Britain is not just selling; it's also buying overseas.

We were the third biggest outward investor last year.

National ease

Of course, this kind of global integration is affecting many countries.

Even France - it was the biggest outward investor in the world last year as it happens, and is huge recipient of inward investment too.

But arguably, Britain is unusual in trying to become a global economic hub, with easy-going takeover rules, plenty of migration and a strong English-speaking business services sector.

A kind of large version of Luxembourg.

It's a vision of Britain that Gordon Brown has promoted.

A country so at ease with its nationality, it doesn't even care who owns what.

That's the vision anyway. As public consciousness rises, of national icons getting taken over by foreign companies, we'll see whether the public are as relaxed about nationality as it appears.

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