Foreign ownership in the Canadian economy

Statscan reports the latest numbers on foreign ownership:

Foreign-controlled corporations accounted for 21.9% of assets held in Canada, and 30.0% of operating revenues. Despite the odd fluctuation, these shares have remained fairly stable ever since the post-recessionary period of the mid-1990s.

Assets of foreign-controlled corporations rose a healthy 8.3% to $1.1 trillion in 2004, while those of Canadian-controlled corporations jumped 8.9% to $3.9 trillion. This follows more moderate growth rates of 5.7% for Canadian-controlled corporations, and 1.5% for foreign-controlled corporations in 2003.

Foreign-controlled revenues increased 6.7% in 2004 to just shy of the $800-billion mark, nearly double the level of a decade earlier. The global boom in mergers and acquisitions activity during the 1990s contributed to this rapid increase. . . .

Foreign-controlled profits soared to a record $68 billion in 2004, up a staggering 21.7% from the previous year. Domestic-controlled profits also rose, although at a more moderate rate of 11.8%. Much of these gains, in both cases, came on the strength of the manufacturing sector, where profits rose 36.2%.

This was the second straight year that corporate profits were on the rise. Furthermore, in 2004, they hit an all-time high of $217 billion, eclipsing the old mark of $192 billion set in 2000.

Between 2002 and 2004, foreign-controlled corporations led the way with a 38.6% surge in profits, compared with a 22.4% gain for Canadian-controlled corporations. . . .

Among foreign-controlled corporations operating in Canada, the United States continued to be the dominant force by a wide margin. American-controlled firms held 61.0% of foreign-based assets and generated 62.6% of foreign-based revenues.

Ho hum, says Statscan. Yet, contrast this to recent developments in the US, where the prospect of a Chinese company buying up an American energy corporation made Congress freak out.

Should we care about foreign ownership of our economy? Does it matter that US companies have locked up huge portions of the oil and gas sector at a time when energy security is ever more important?

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