While North America and Europe are still home to the largest overseas investors, with 25.7 and 13.7 per cent of the overall market respectively, shareholders in other markets are becoming a larger fixture. As recently as 2010, the proportion of UK shares held in Africa rounded to zero, shooting up to 3.8 per cent last year, as the continent’s budding financial services sector expands. A Confederation of British Industry spokesperson commented: “These figures show that the UK has been successful in attracting foreign investment, which is critical to our economic success.” Shares owned by the public sector have risen up from next to nothing in 1998, to 2.5 per cent of the market last year. This is attributed to interventions in the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds during the financial crisis. The government held shares worth £42.6bn at the end of last year.
However, other UK investors are now holding a much smaller chunk of the UK’s shares. In the 14 years to 2012, the proportion held by UK insurance companies fell from 21.6 per cent to only 6.2 per cent. Similarly, UK pension funds now only hold 4.7 per cent, in comparison to 21.7 per cent held in 1998. There has been a long-term decline in the segment of UK shares owned directly by individuals: 50 years ago, single owners made up over 50 per cent of shareholders, but a long-term decline has reduced the proportion to a much lower level. Only 10.7 per cent of the UK’s shares are still held by individual investors.