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Corporate births and deaths

This is typical. Howard Gospel and Martin Fiedler, two economic historians, have compiled a list of the UK's largest firms in 1907. Of the top 100 then, only three are independent stock market quoted firms today: WH Smith, GKN and Prudential.

The message here is that firms die. Recent official figures have quantified this. They show that last year 11.9 per cent of companies ceased trading - a death rate 18 times higher than that for men. Such high mortality is not merely due to the recession. Even in the best year recently, 9.4 per cent of firms died.

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