Finance: Sector owned a greater proportion of UK shares in the sixties

Charities own a smaller percentage of UK shares than they did in 1963, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The not-for-profit-sector, including charities, universities and churches, owns 1.1 per cent of all UK shares, the study of share ownership for 2004 shows. The investments are worth £16.2bn.

But in 1963, the year Prime Minister Harold Macmillan - who told voters during the 1959 election "you've never had it so good" - resigned from office, charities held a significantly higher 2.1 per cent of UK shares.

In 1991, they owned 2.4 per cent of total UK equity.

The study shows that foreign investors now own the largest stake in UK shares - 32.6 per cent. This is a massive rise from the 3.6 per cent they owned in 1981.

The report's authors suggest the rise can be partly explained by international mergers where the parent company is listed in the UK, and firms moving to the UK.

Insurance companies follow with 17.2 per cent. Individuals own 15.7 per cent - compared with 54 per cent in 1963. Charities come in eighth on the list, below banks but ahead of private, non-financial companies.

Some 28.4 per cent of the shares owned by charities are in financial companies, 14.2 per cent in manufacturing companies and 57.4 per cent in non-manufacturing companies. Three-quarters of all charity investments are in FTSE 100 companies.

Paul Palmer, professor of voluntary sector management at Cass Business School, said the low proportion of shares held by charities reflected an aversion to equities.

"A lot of charities sold shares between 2000 and 2002," he said. "They still view equities with suspicion.

"The focus on transparency and accountability has led to a short-termist position. Charities want to be seen to be spending money immediately rather than investing for the long term."

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