Crikey has long complained about the relative lack of Australian-based companies prospering on the global stage but thanks in large part to the efforts of Macquarie Bank, the ledger is starting to turn around.

Since 2001 we’ve been updating this list tracking the number of Australian companies turning over more than $200 million a year from exports or offshore assets and contrasting that with the foreign companies doing more than $200 million a year in Australia.

At first we could only find about 40 Australian companies which qualified but despite collapses such as HIH and foreign takeovers of companies like Excel Coal and Mayne Pharma, we’re now pushing 70.

The biggest single contributor to the expansion has been listed Millionaire Factory vehicles such as Macquarie Infrastructure Group, Macquarie Airports, Macquarie Media and Macquarie Communications Infrastructure Group.

Since Rio Tinto scampered to London and BHP merged with Billiton, we’ve also lacked genuinely Australian-based and owned international mining and resource companies. However, Macquarie is helping turn this around by buying major global service and supply companies to the resources sector such as Dyno Nobel and Boart and then refloating them on the Australian market. Whilst we’re building some home grown major players such as WorleyParsons, it’s great work to profitably buy foreign companies and relocate the head office back to Australia

Sure, there are still almost 200 foreign companies on our list, but the ratio has come down from almost 4-1 to less than 3-1.

We’re still far more successful in global sporting competition than the more important pursuits of business and education – but at least our corporates such as CSL, Computershare and Cochlear are prospering on the world stage.

Paul Keating’s compulsory super reforms have played a big part in this story because the sheer weight of capital makes Australia a more attractive place for listed companies to base themselves.

BHP-Billiton and Rio Tinto both trade at a premium in Australia over their London equivalents so as the deluge of private equity deals return to public markets in the years ahead, Australia will be near the top of the tree given our propensity to pay top dollar for floats. This is unreservedly positive for Australia’s well-regarded lawyers, accountants and the like who would work in these head offices.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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