FTSE goes global with its new benchmark index

INVESTORS WITH a penchant for international companies will this week have the chance to put their money into a new index for multinational firms.

The benchmark, launched yesterday by the index provider FTSE International, will include more than 500 of the world's largest companies.

The new index family, which starts trading on Friday, also includes a FTSE Global 100, modelled on the FTSE 100 of UK blue chips. The flagship index will feature the top 100 multinational companies such as the US software giant Microsoft, the UK oil major BP Amoco and its Anglo-UK rival Shell.

To qualify for the new index family - developed by actuaries Bacon & Woodrow and fund manager Barclays Global Investors - companies need to have at least 30 per cent of their sales outside their regional markets. BP Amoco, for example, has been selected because more than 63 per cent of its turnover comes from outside Europe.

The FTSE Global 100 is dominated by US companies, which account for more than half of their overall constituents. UK firms are also prominent with giants such as the mobile phone operator Vodafone AirTouchand the drug group Glaxo Wellcome.

Mark Makepeace, managing director of FTSE International, said that the new index would enable pension funds to reduce their dependence on the UK stock market.

A recent study by BGI showed that UK pension funds are hostage to swings in the domestic stock market because they invest more than three-quarters of their holdings in the London bourse.

FTSE International is the second index provider to issue a multinational series. In the summer, the US information group Dow Jones launched its own index of 50 multinational companies.