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B2B players in the US and China challenge UK firms for global leadership

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The Global Warning report shows that, for the first time, China and North America have overtaken Britain as the fastest growing areas of the world for B2B services, with growth in the last three years of 33 per cent and 64 per cent respectively, versus 21 per cent in Britain.

The report reveals that Chinese firms are predicted to grow their global share from nine per cent in 2012, to 18 per cent by 2020. The larger US market is expected to grow its global share from 29 per cent in 2012 to 40 per cent by 2020. British firms, which currently have seven per cent share of the market but see nearly three quarters of revenues derived from sales abroad, will actually see their global position fall to six per cent by 2020, as other markets refine their international strategies.

The report looks at the make-up of the world’s top B2B services firms, and finds that almost half are now defined as ‘globetrotters’ – businesses deriving more than 50 per cent of revenues from outside their domestic market. However, these scaled global firms are now losing market share to the emergence of a new breed of B2B service company, the ‘travellers’, firms with a more balanced international profile (between five to 50 per cent of revenues derived from abroad), or only a single continent footprint.

Historically, these firms have been more selective in their international approach, sticking to home or adjacent markets. But a shift in their behaviours in the last three years mean British firms now risk being overtaken in the market by strong new contenders in North America and China in particular. US firms such as Halliburton and Schlumberger, for example, have increased revenues by around 16 per cent per annum in the last three years.

British globe trotters have been first movers in this sector, representing an impressive export success story, with 70 per cent of revenues in the sector coming from abroad, compared with 55 per cent for other non-British companies. But these and other international pioneers are now growing at half the rate of B2B ‘travellers’ and seeing the slowest margin growth.

Vivek Madan, Global head of B2B services at OC&C Strategy Consultants, said: “Internationally, British firms are being outgunned by US and Chinese ones. They need to find the next wave of growth or face the possibility of takeover if other fast-growth companies from overseas decide to deploy their strong balance sheets for acquisitions.

“British companies have the expertise and are well placed for further international expansion but instead of adopting a scattergun approach of generating flags on the map, they need to ruthlessly prioritise markets and selectively deploy resources.”

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