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Spread bets and CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage.

Top 10 largest UK companies by market cap

The UK economy offers plenty of opportunities for traders, from large blue chip stocks to penny stocks. Discover the 10 largest companies by market cap in the UK, and how you can trade their share price movements.

What are the biggest UK companies by market capitalisation?

Company Sector Market cap1 EPS1 Dividend yield1 ROI1
1 Unilever Food and tobacco £113.85 billion 1.91 3.34% 14.45%
2 AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals £104.73 billion 0.77 2.7% 2.9%
3 BHP Mining £99.06 billion 1.18 5.15% 10.3%
4 RioTinto Mining £83.73 billion 3.65 5.88% 9.53%
5 HSBC Financials £81.2 billion 0.22 6.04% -
6 GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals £69.24 billion 0.93 5.79% 12.4%
7 Diageo Beverages £67.89 billion 0.6 2.40% 6.1%
8 British American Tobacco Food and tobacco £61.61 billion 2.47 7.83% 4.61%
9 BP Oil and gas £55.56 billion 0.15 8.62% 1.94%
10 Reckitt Benckiser Group Personal household products and services £44.91 billion -3.93 2.76% -10.39%

All of the largest UK companies are constituents of the FTSE 100 – which tracks the top 100 stocks on the London Stock Exchange.

The UK’s economy is currently the sixth largest in the world – behind the US, China, Japan, Germany and India. The biggest companies in the UK can give you insights into the nation’s economy – including its health and which sectors it’s reliant upon. For example, the top 10 are split between mining, pharmaceuticals, non-cyclical consumer goods and financials.

This table was updated on 25 November 2020. Please note, the order may change in line with stock market fluctuations.

How to trade the largest companies in the UK

Here’s how to start trading the largest companies in the UK:

  1. Learn more about the largest companies
  2. Discover how to buy and trade stocks
  3. Open an account with us
  4. Place and monitor your first trade

You can take a position on the largest companies in the UK using CFDs or spread bets. As they’re derivatives, you can speculate on any underlying price movements without taking ownership of the shares. So, you can take a position on prices rising and falling market prices – known as going long and short.

Alternatively, you can buy and take ownership of these stocks via a share dealing account. This makes you eligible for voting rights and to receive dividends if the company grants them.

To find out more about the companies on our list, click the names on the list below:

Unilever (£113.85 billion)

Unilever has been a household brand since 1929, when it was founded through the merger of soap maker Lever Brothers and margarine company Margarine Unie. It is a multi-layered business with more than 400 brands, including food, home and personal care products.

Throughout 2020, Covid-19 has had a severe impact on consumer behaviour, which has impacted a lot of Unilever’s core markets – particularly in Europe, Indonesia and Latin America. Although the increase in demand for hygiene products grew in the first half of the year, boosting net income by 10%, this fell in Q3 of 2020. Overall, the company reported a net earnings fall of 2.4% down to €12.9 billion for the quarter.

However, the company’s emerging markets, such as China and India, did see sales growth pick up by 5.3% in Q3 2020. Unilever’s management has said it will focus on delivering volume-led growth and delivering consistent profits.

Trade Unilever shares

AstraZeneca (£104.73 billion)

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca was formed in 1999 after the merger between Astra AB and Zeneca Group. Since then, it has remained one of the largest pharma companies not only in the UK, but in the world. Its focus areas include oncology, respiratory health, neuroscience and cardiovascular health.

The company has been at the forefront of the drive to develop a Covid-19 vaccine – on 23 November, it announced its vaccine was 70% effective in trials and could be up to 90% effective. However, AstraZeneca’s shares fell nearly 4% as its efficacy data was less impressive than rivals but it’s expected to be easier to distribute and scale than its rivals.

In its Q3 2020 earnings, AstraZeneca announced its total revenue increased by 8% in the year to date to $19.207 million.

Trade AstraZeneca shares

BHP Group (£99.06 billion)

BHP, a major mining company headquartered in Australia, was founded in 1860 and now operates in more than 90 countries. Not only is it the third largest company by market cap in the UK, it was also ranked the second largest mining company in the world in 2020.1 Its business includes extracting and processing minerals, oil and gas.

After falling to a low of 9.49 in March at the onset of the pandemic, BHP’s share price rebounded to 17.31 in late November – this price level hadn’t been seen since January 2020. BHP’s share price has risen just 3.68% in the last year.

While BHP’s copper operations were impacted by Covid-19 preventative measures, overall its production rose 2% from a year ago driven by solid results in its metallurgical coal and iron-ore projects.

Trade BHP shares

Rio Tinto (£83.73 billion)

Rio Tinto is a mining company based in London, with operations in Spain. It was founded in 1873 and has since undergone many changes by means of several mergers and acquisitions. Rio Tinto is listed on three exchanges – the LSE, the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) and the NYSE – all under the RIO ticker.

Despite falling to lows of 29.96 in March 2020, due to Covid-19 causing a slowdown in operations, Rio Tinto’s share price experienced an impressive rise of nearly 80% throughout the following eight months. This was largely due to rising iron ore prices following the US government’s introduction of stimulus packages and the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.

Last quarter, Rio Tinto's EPS fell 3% year-on-year to $1.47 per share, while revenue slid 7% to $9.7 billion.

Trade Rio Tinto shares

HSBC Holdings (£81.20 billion)

HSBC is one of the largest banking and financial services institutions in the world – serving more than 39 million customers in 66 countries.

In September 2020, HSBC shares fell to 283p – nearly half the price they started at in January. A large contributor to this decline was the coronavirus pandemic, which caused a rise in bad loans and failed debt repayments globally. As the second lockdown hit, and possibilities of a recession increased, banks were expected to experience continued decline. However, news of a vaccine buoyed the economy of the UK, which saw HSBC shares hit 406p for the first time since June.

HSBC's global reach may mean it’s geared for quicker growth and recovery than its rivals.

Trade HSBC Holdings shares

GlaxoSmithKline (£69.24 billion)

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is a science-led global health company, which researches, develops and manufactures pharmaceutical medicines, vaccines and healthcare products. It was established in 1715, although it didn’t exist in its current form until 2000, following the merger of four major pharmaceutical companies.

Due to Covid-19 disruptions, the group’s sales declined throughout 2020, falling by as much as 5% in Q3 2020. However, it recorded a 2% increase in operating profit thanks to declining operating expenses. GlaxoSmithKline’s share price has declined steadily throughout 2020 – falling from £18.00 in January to around £13.00 at the end of November.

Trade GlaxoSmithKline shares

Diageo (£67.89 billion)

Diageo (DGE) is an alcoholic beverage company, formed in London in 1997. It has more than 200 brands, including Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker and Guinness, which it sells in 180 countries around the world. Its biggest revenue producers are scotch (25%) and beer (16%).

Following several reasonably stable years of performance, Covid-19 had a significant impact on Diageo’s fiscal performance.

Diageo’s share price had fallen by 7% from January to November, while the FTSE 100 experienced declines of 18%. DGE has often outperformed the wider stock index as its considered a defensive stock, known for its consistent performance in economic downturns. However, due to the closure of pubs and restaurants, the company’s wholesales have declined and were only partially met by consumer demand.

Net sales were down 8.7% for the year, and operating profit was down 47.1% – although these declines weren’t specific to Diageo, and were also recorded across the industry.

Trade Diageo shares

British American Tobacco (£61.61 billion)

Founded in 1902, British American Tobacco (BAT) has changed significantly over the past 100 years. The company's focus has shifted to creating reduced-risk products using new technology and sustainable practices. BAT is the largest tobacco manufacturer in the world in terms of net sales,2 delivering its products to more than 180 countries.

Shares of BAT are trading at 46% lower than its 2017 peak of £56.12, which is significantly lower than the general market fall of 7%. However, if we just look at 2020, British American Tobacco has fallen by approximately 14% compared to the FTSE’s 18%.

Although cigarette sales have been declining for years, British American Tobacco’s profits have largely been stable. In fact, in its half-year results in July 2020, BAT announced profits were up 16.4% year-on-year to £5.09 million, while total revenue was up 0.8% from the previous year to £12.27 million.

Trade British American Tobacco shares

BP (£55.56 billion)

BP is a hugely successful oil and gas company, dating back to 1909. BP now has operations in five continents, and produces more than 3.8 million barrels of oil per day.3 As the demand for energy changes and increases, BP aims to build its infrastructure to meet these needs.

Covid-19 pandemic had a huge impact on the fossil fuel industry, as the decline in travel and industrial industry activities has dramatically reduced the demand for oil. The price of oil per barrel fell to less than $20 in March 2020, although it has since rebounded to around $45, it was enough to send oil stocks spiralling downward too. Over a 12-month period, the price of BP shares fell in price by more than 52%.

From 29 October to 29 November, the price of BP shares increased by over 16%. News of a coronavirus vaccine increased optimism that the economy would return to normal quickly and demand for BP’s products would build again.

Trade BP shares

Reckitt Benckiser Group (£51.25 billion)

Reckitt Benckiser Group is a leading producer of health and hygiene products – including household names such as Dettol, Strepsils and Cilit Bang.

Over the past 12 months – December 2019 to 2020 – the Reckitt Benckiser share price has increased by over 27%. The global pandemic has sent demand for the company’s hygiene products through the roof, coupled with a viral media campaign called the hand wash challenge, which increased the brands presence. It’s hygiene division experienced growth of 19.5% in Q3 2020.

It’s worth noting that the company’s over-the-counter medicine sales were down by 10% in Q3 2020. However, top-level insiders – including the CEO and Chairman – have bought stock recently, which suggests they’re confident about the company’s strategy going forward.

Trade Reckitt Benckiser Group shares

Footnotes

1 MINING.COM, 2020
2 Statista, 2020
3 BP, 2020

This information has been prepared by IG, a trading name of IG Markets Limited. In addition to the disclaimer below, the material on this page does not contain a record of our trading prices, or an offer of, or solicitation for, a transaction in any financial instrument. IG accepts no responsibility for any use that may be made of these comments and for any consequences that result. No representation or warranty is given as to the accuracy or completeness of this information. Consequently any person acting on it does so entirely at their own risk. Any research provided does not have regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation and needs of any specific person who may receive it. It has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and as such is considered to be a marketing communication. Although we are not specifically constrained from dealing ahead of our recommendations we do not seek to take advantage of them before they are provided to our clients. See full non-independent research disclaimer and quarterly summary.

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