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Networks reveal concentrated ownership of corporations

Analysis of stock markets in 48 countries finds backbones of control

6:37pm, February 13, 2009

Researchers have made the first maps of corporate stock ownership for the stock markets of a large number of countries, 48 in all. The new network analysis technique reveals “backbones” in these ownership networks: big players that together own a controlling stake in more than 80 percent of the companies in the markets.

In these network diagrams, nodes represent either a company with publicly owned stock or a shareholder. Links between the nodes show which shareholders hold stock in which companies. Because many publicly owned companies also hold shares in other companies, many nodes have both “owner” and “ownee” links. Plotting all these connections creates a map of the ownership structure of a stock market.

Unlike the approach used in the new study, simpler network analyses can’t reveal these backbones of ownership because the market values of companies being traded aren’t taken into account. The new study, published

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