Britain's Biggest Business Brands

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
-- William Shakespeare, from Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare was wrong
LONDON -- Unfortunately, when it comes to corporate brands, the brilliant Bard of Avon is absolutely wrong. Indeed, some company names and brands are fantastically valuable, as the latest 2012 BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands report demonstrates.

In the seventh of its yearly brand reports, Millward Brown estimated that the world's top 100 brands are worth a total of $2.4 trillion. That's a 66% increase in brand value between 2006 and 2012.

Furthermore, during these six years, a portfolio consisting of these highly valued brands would have beaten the S&P 500 by 103%. In short, big brands often produce bumper returns for their owners, even during the worst recession since the 1930s.

The world's 10 biggest brands
For the record, here are the top 10 brands in the BrandZ list.

Brand

Value (billions)

Change on 2011

Apple

$183

19%

IBM

$116

15%

Google

$108

(3%)

McDonald's

$95

17%

Microsoft

$77

(2%)

Coca-Cola

$74

1%

Marlboro

$74

9%

AT&T

$69

(1%)

Verizon

$49

15%

China Mobile

$47

(18%)

As you can see, this is a list dominated by technology firms, with Apple, IBM, Google, and Microsoft taking four of the top five slots.

The king of fast food, McDonald's, takes fourth spot, while sugar-water purveyor Coca-Cola and cigarette maker Marlboro take sixth and seventh places. The remaining three slots are all taken by telecom firms: AT&T, Verizon, and China Mobile.

The UK's six biggest brands
Now let's take a look at some of Britain's biggest brand names. These six FTSE 100 firms are the only British entries in the Brandz top 100 table:

Brand

World Rank

Value (billions)

Change on 2011

Vodafone  (Nasdaq: VOD  ) 12 $43 (1%)
HSBC  (NYSE: HBC  ) 31 $19 (14%)
Tesco (OTC: TSCDY) 36 $18 (18%)
Royal Dutch Shell  (NYSE: RDS-B  ) 39 $18 17%
BP  (NYSE: BP  ) 77 $10 (17%)
Standard Chartered 79 $10 (16%)

Taking the top slot for the U.K. is telecom Goliath Vodafone in 12th place. (Vodafone also owns 45% of Verizon, which was ninth overall.) Next up is mega-bank HSBC, followed by the U.K.'s biggest supermarket, Tesco, in 36th place.

In fourth and fifth places are oil leviathans Royal Dutch Shell and BP, but note the 17% drop in BP's brand value from 2011 to 2012, against Shell's 17% rise. Emerging-market bank Standard Chartered takes the sixth and final British slot, a mere 79th overall in the world.

Big, beautiful brands
For the record, I view all of these companies as British heroes ideal for investors. Indeed, I'd be happy to own shares in all of the British top five, as each is a dividend monster in its own right.

Furthermore, one of these six U.K. brands is also a firm favorite of multibillionaire Warren Buffett, the world's most acclaimed investor. In fact, the Oracle of Omaha has bought more than 5% of this brilliant British brand, spending a couple of billion pounds in the process. To find out more about this national treasure, download our free report today: "One UK Share that Warren Buffett Loves!."

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Further investment opportunities:

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article erroneously stated that Standard Chartered does all of its trading outside of the United Kingdom. The Motley Fool regrets the error.

Cliff does not own any of the shares mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Coca-Cola, International Business Machines, Google, China Mobile, and Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Microsoft, McDonald's, Apple, Coca-Cola, Google, and Vodafone Group. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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