Photo: The Economist
Finland’s fortunes are affected by one firm. What about other countries?NOKIA contributed a quarter of Finnish growth from 1998 to 2007, according to figures from the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (ET LA). Over the same period, the mobile-phone manufacturer’s spending on research and development made up 30% of the country’s total, and it generated nearly a fifth of Finland’s exports. In the decade to 2007, Nokia was sometimes paying as much as 23% of all Finnish corporation tax. No wonder that a decline in its fortunes–Nokia’s share price has fallen by 90% since 2007, thanks partly to Apple’s ascent–has clouded Finland’s outlook.
Are any other economies so reliant on one company? The researchers at ETLA calculate Nokia’s value-added to work out its importance to Finland, but such data are not widely available. A look at firms’ sales as a percentage of GDP (see table) offers a cruder indication of clout. We used the Dow Jones Global Index to identify firms whose revenues ranked highest in the country of their listing.
Firms like ArcelorMittal, Essar Energy and China Mobile make the top 10 because of their choice of domicile; their economic activity mainly takes place elsewhere. Oil-and-gas firms feature heavily, although that may simply show that certain economies are dependent on a certain type of activity rather than a specific firm. Lower down the list the presence of Sands China, a casino developer and operator whose sales are 13% of Macao’s GDP, reflects the importance of gambling to the territory.
Strip these sorts of firms from the list and only one resembles Nokia: Taiwan’s Hon Hai, an electronics manufacturer. Yet Nokia made 27% of Finnish patent applications last year; the corresponding figure for Hon Hai was 8%. Although numbers are falling, Finland is home to the greatest number of Nokia employees; Hon Hai’s staff is mostly in China. It is a similar story with other firms. Sales of Nestlé, a consumer-goods company, weigh in at 15% of Swiss GDP but its share of Swiss jobs is punier than Nokia’s in Finland. Samsung, whose revenues are twice Nokia’s, has half its clout as a share of GDP: South Korea’s economy is more diversified. The importance of Nokia to Finland looks like a one-off.