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The Performance of European Business in the Twentieth Century$
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Youssef Cassis, Andrea Colli, and Harm Schröter

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198749776

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198749776.001.0001

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The Performance of British Business in the Twentieth Century

The Performance of British Business in the Twentieth Century

(p.72) 5 The Performance of British Business in the Twentieth Century
The Performance of European Business in the Twentieth Century

Youssef Cassis

Terry Gourvish

Oxford University Press

During the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, British big business reached a degree of modernity and maturity not yet attained elsewhere in Europe: Britain’s largest companies were significantly larger than their European counterparts (except for German heavy industries and electrical engineering) and more diversified, comprising a broad range of activities, from manufacturing (capital and consumer goods) to finance and services. Most of these differences had disappeared by the early 1970s. British business performance, measured by return on equity, was fairly stable throughout the twentieth century and within the European norm, except at the end of the century, when returns were exceptionally high (over 20% versus just under 10% for the rest of the century). Business performance was less impressive considered from an investor’s point of view through holding return. Returns were particularly low in the 1920s and reached their highest levels in the early 1970s and late 1990s.

Keywords:   Britain, big business, return on equity, holding return, modernity, maturity, diversity

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