ABS figures refute ‘fire sale’ fears

CONCERNS that Australia is ‘selling off the farm’ to overseas interests, a view expounded by the likes of Pauline Hanson and Dick Smith, appear ill founded, according to research by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Since June 1998, the proportion of Australian equity controlled by foreigners has remained relatively unchanged at about 28 per cent, while the total value of equity on issue increased almost 40 per cent.

Investors from the United Kingdom control the largest portion of foreign-owned equity with a total shareholding of $124.3 billion, representing 36 per cent of foreign ownership and 10 per cent of total equity. Residents from the United States controlled $112.2 billion (33 per cent), while Japanese residents owned just 5 per cent of foreign-owned equity.

The figures take into account both unlisted and listed shares and units in trusts, ownership of property by non-residents and ownership of foreign-owned Australian branches.

Using this formula, the total value of equity on issue by Australian enterprise groups stood at $1,224 billion at June 30 2001. Of this total, 68 per cent related to shares or similar equity interests issued by corporate trading enterprises. Banks accounted for a further 14 per cent.

The value of equity on issue by banks increased 71 per cent since June 1998, while the proportion of non-resident holdings in banks increased from 24 per cent to 26 per cent during the period.

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