MRO Magazine

Foreign controlled assets in Canada top $1 trillion

Ottawa, ON -- Foreign-controlled assets rose by only 2.1% in 2003, according to the latest figures from Statistics ...


August 3, 2005
By MRO Magazine

Ottawa, ON — Foreign-controlled assets rose by only 2.1% in 2003, according to the latest figures from Statistics Canada. The figure marks the slowest growth by foreign-controlled corporations in more than a decade.

Contributing to this slowdown in growth was the dramatic recovery of the Canadian dollar in 2003, which made Canadian assets more costly to buy. However, foreign-controlled assets still managed to top the $1 trillion mark for the first time in 2003.

Foreign-controlled corporations held $1 trillion worth of assets in 2003, which represents 22.3% of the total corporate assets held in Canada. This is down slightly from the year before, when foreign-controlled corporations held 22.7% of total corporate assets.

From 1998 to 2003, growth in assets has been similar for Canadian-controlled and foreign-controlled corporations. Canadian-controlled corporations registered a 39.0% increase in assets since 1998, while the increase for foreign-controlled corporations was 36.2%.


Foreign-controlled revenues grew 3.8% to $743 billion in 2003, edging out Canadian-controlled corporations which grew 3.0%. As a result, the share of operating revenue under foreign control stood at 29.6% in 2003, similar to what it was the year before. Foreign control, as measured by operating revenues, has hovered around the 30% mark since 1995.

The United States continues to be the largest foreign player in the Canadian economy, although its share of foreign control appears to have peaked by the beginning of the new millennium.

As Canada’s largest trading partner, the U.S. accounted for 62.3% of the assets and 64.1% of the operating revenues generated by foreign-controlled corporations active in Canada in 2003.

The U.S. share of foreign control in Canada has risen steadily throughout the 1990s as cross-border activity increased with the introduction of the free trade agreements between Canada and the United States.


Manufacturing had just over half (51.3%) of its assets, or $316 billion, held by foreign-controlled corporations. Similarly, oil and gas had 49.1% of its assets, or $123 billion, under foreign control in 2003.

Foreign control continued to rise in the non-financial sector. Foreign-controlled corporations held 29.3% of total assets in this sector in 2003, up from 28.7% in 2002.

The share of assets under foreign control has been steadily increasing in the non-financial sector since the mid-1980s, when it stood at about 23%.

The foreign share of assets has been declining in the financial sector. It stood at 15.0% in 2003, down from 18.5% in 1999. The main contributors to this decline were merger and acquisition activity in this sector coupled with the conversion of some mutual companies into shareholder-owned companies in the insurance industry.

While the U.S. continues to be the dominant player, the European Union has increased its presence in the financial sector. In 2002, the U.S. generated 56.3% of foreign-controlled revenue compared to 37.4% for the E.U. By 2003, the E.U. was challenging the U.S. for the lead as the U.S. share shrank to 48.8% of foreign-controlled revenue, while the E.U. share rose to 46.8%.


Corporate profits surged to $187 billion in 2003, among the highest earned in a single year, despite it being a very turbulent year. SARS, the power outage in Ontario, mad cow disease in Alberta and raging forest fires in British Columbia did little to dampen corporate profits as foreign-controlled profits rose 8.2% to $53 billion and Canadian-controlled profits rose 10.7% to $135 billion in 2003.

Most of the rise in foreign-controlled profits came on the strength of the near-record profits posted by the oil and gas industry. Profits earned by foreign-controlled corporations operating in this sector jumped by almost 50% in 2003 to $10 billion. Much of this gain can be attributed to the rise in crude oil prices early in the year.