UK mid-sized businesses win the race for overseas revenue

27 January 2020

  • Mid-sized businesses in the UK boost overseas revenue by 69% in five years despite Brexit instability
  • FTSE 350 and smaller businesses both see a decline in revenue generated overseas

Mid-sized businesses have significantly outpaced large and small businesses in the race for overseas revenues, highlighting their resilience despite economic and political uncertainty, according to research released by accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP

The research reveals that medium-sized, private equity-backed and AIM-listed businesses, what BDO refers to as the UK’s economic engine - have grown overseas revenue to £167bn, an increase of 69% over the last five years and 11% in the last year.

In comparison, FTSE 350 and smaller businesses (<£10m turnover) saw a decline in overseas revenue of -17% and -34% respectively during the last five years.

Mid-sized businesses in London took the top spot for international growth in England and Wales, recording an increase of 85% over five years from £28bn to £52bn, followed by those in the North East and North West, which increased overseas revenue by 79% and 76% respectively.

Meanwhile, FTSE 350 businesses based in London witnessed some of the slowest overseas growth, recording a decrease of -35% over five years.

Internationally, some of the top performing sectors include professional services and financial services, growing overseas revenue by 118% and 91% respectively, with technology and media businesses growing 89% over the same five-year period.

“The results speak volumes for the mid market’s resilience and appetite for growth”, says BDO’s Managing Partner Paul Eagland.

“Businesses have been crippled by economic and political uncertainty for the last five years but the dynamism and entrepreneurial mind-set of the UK’s mid-sized businesses – and the people that lead them – has resulted in some impressive international expansion.

“This is why we describe the mid-market as the UK’s economic engine – they are driving growth, wealth, employment and opportunity in ways that too often go unnoticed.”

Domestic turnover tells a similar positive story for the UK’s mid-sized businesses, which have increased turnover by 43% over the same five year period, from £970bn to £1.4tn. This compares to FTSE 350 businesses, which grew UK turnover by 17%, and smaller businesses which have experienced a decline of -13%.

Despite only making up approximately 0.75% of all UK registered companies by number, mid-sized businesses account for around one third of UK private sector revenue and employment.

Since 2016, as part of its New Economy campaign, BDO has been calling on the government to place overlooked and undervalued mid-sized businesses at the heart of its policy making. The latest New Economy report sets out five policy areas that focus on ensuring the continued success of UK businesses post-Brexit.

To read BDO’s New Economy report please click here

Summary of key findings


Overseas Turnover (latest year)

Overseas Turnover

(latest year minus 5)

Overseas Turnover % growth

Turnover (latest year)

Turnover (latest year minus 5)

Turnover % growth

Economic engine







FTSE 350








Small businesses







*This research does not include data from Northern Ireland.


Note to editors

Accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP provides integrated advice and solutions to help businesses navigate a changing world.

Our clients are Britain’s economic engine – ambitious, entrepreneurially-spirited and high-growth businesses that fuel the economy. 

We share our clients’ ambitions and their entrepreneurial mind-set. We have the right combination of global reach, integrity and expertise to help them succeed. 


BDO LLP operates in 17 locations across the UK, employing nearly 5,500 people offering tax, audit and assurance, and a range of advisory services. BDO LLP is the UK member firm of the BDO international network.

BDO’s global network

The BDO global network provides business advisory services in 167 countries, with 88,000 people working out of 1,800 offices worldwide. It has revenues of $9.6bn. 


Emma Ordidge
Senior PR Adviser, BDO
+44(0)7812 380571
[email protected]

Press office:
020 7893 3000
[email protected]