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Foreigner Ownership: Debt Dwarfs Ports
ABC News
More Than 53 Percent of Federal Debt Held by Foreign Entities
February 22, 2006

Feb. 22, 2006 — President Bush is taking public heat over an Arab-owned company's impending takeover of several major American seaports, but the furor over port operations could pale in comparison to the public outcry if Americans considered the massive amount of federal debt owned by foreigners.

Foreign ownership of corporations active in the United States, like the one poised to control operations at six U.S. ports, is small scale compared to the ownership of U.S. debt. In fact, foreign entities own a little more than 53 percent of the U.S. federal debt in publicly traded world markets.

IRS data obtained by ABC News shows that only about 61,615 active corporations are owned by foreign interests. That may sound like a big number, but it's just a little more than 1 percent of all active corporations that filed taxes in 2002.

Some industries and subsectors have higher concentrations of foreign ownership. Foreign holding companies and wholesale trade operations have the highest percentage of foreign ownership, with 5.5 percent and 4.4 percent foreign ownership, respectively.

The transportation and warehousing subsector, where you would find port operations like the ones being discussed in the port takeover, are right at the national average with 1.16 percent foreign ownership.