The British East India Company’s ships flew an ensign incorporating the Union Jack. Today corporate nationality is harder to determine. Take Coca-Cola, the epitome of Americana. Less than half its sales and staff hail from its homeland, though its boss and most shareholders do. According to The Economist’s “domestic density” index, it is 62% American. The measure (which combines the shares of sales, staff and owners that are domestic, and the boss’s nationality) casts new light on recent merger debates.
On May 15th the French government, vexed by an offer by America’s General Electric for parts of Alstom, extended its powers to block foreign takeovers in “strategic” industries—although by our measure Alstom is only a third French. Some Britons are worried by a bid from Pfizer, a notionally American drugmaker, for AstraZeneca: they would like to protect what they see as a national champion. But AstraZeneca’s domestic-density score is a mere 12%. It paid no British corporation tax last year, just a quarter of the company is domestically owned and the boss is French. Flying the right corporate flag has never been harder.