September 5, 2017 / 11:21 AM / a year ago

Overseas owners become net sellers of British firms, data shows

LONDON, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Overseas owners became net sellers of British companies for the first time in 15 years between April and June, according to data that could hint at nerves among foreign investors over Brexit.

Foreign businesses sold British firms worth 3.8 billion pounds ($4.9 billion) in the period, outweighing acquisitions of 2.9 billion pounds, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said as Britain gears up to leave the European Union.

Mergers and acquisitions data are volatile and values are often skewed by big deals, with the second quarter including Bank of America Corp’s 1.9 billion-pound sale of credit card company MBNA to Lloyds Banking Group.

However, the number of acquisitions of British firms by overseas buyers also fell to 44 from 70 in the first quarter, the fewest since the third quarter of 2015.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said in the run-up to the referendum that Britain was reliant on the “kindness of strangers” to balance its books, highlighting how the country needed tens of billions of pounds of foreign finance a year.

Overseas acquisitions made by British companies rose sharply in the second quarter to hit 18.3 billion pounds, largely reflecting Reckitt Benckiser’s purchase of U.S. baby formula maker Mead Johnson Nutrition for $16.6 billion.

The number of mergers and acquisitions between British companies fell to 66 in the second quarter from 94 in the first quarter, the fewest since the third quarter of 2015. ($1 = 0.7739 pounds) (Reporting by Andy Bruce; editing by Alexander Smith)

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