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Foreign Direct Investment

Follow the money is age old advice for knowing why something is happening. In this case we would like to follow the money that goes into foreign direct investment. Foreign direct investment is done by folks with lots of money and the intention to stay a course and make a profit. If you are looking for offshore investment ideas, take a look at where foreign direct investment goes year after year after year. There have been changes afoot regarding where foreign direct investment is going. A very useful reference in this regard is the just published United Nations study, World Investment Report 2013. We have used 2007 and 2012 as bookend comparison years as 2007 was just before the onset of the worst recession in three quarters of a century and 2012 is the most recent year reported. Of note is that direct foreign investment has fallen in the large majority of nations but there are exceptions that should help guide investors with their fundamental analysis of where to put their money in the years ahead. First take a look at the data and then read about foreign direct investment.

Foreign Direct Investment Comparison of 2007 and 2012
In Billions of USD
Taken from the United Nations World Investment Report 2013

Nation

2007

2012

European Union 859 323
UK 200 71
France 96 37
Germany 80 67
North America, incl. Mexico 363 408
Canada 117 54
USA 216 329
Mexico 31 26
Japan 23 123
China 84 84
China, Hong Kong 62 83
South Korea 9 33
India 25 9
South Africa 6 4
Russian Federation 57 51
Brazil 35 -3

The largest gain in foreign direct investment on our chart is in the USA followed closely by Japan (113 billion to 100 billion. As a percentage increase Japan out performs everyone with an increase of more than 400%. Other significant performers are South Korea with a more than 200% increase in foreign direct investment and Hong Kong with a twenty-five percent increase. It is significant that the BRICS nations which were thought to be ready to move up economically lost as a group. China stayed put at $84 Billion. Russia fell from $57 Billion to $52 Billion and South Africa fell from $6 Billion to $4 Billion. Brazil fell off the charts going from $35 Billion in direct foreign investment to a negative $3 Billion because investors are taking money out of the country!

Direct Foreign Investment: What Is It and Why Do It?

In general, foreign direct investment includes mergers and acquisitions, the building of new facilities, reinvestment of profits earned overseas and cross border loans within offshore operations. Basically companies invest offshore because they expect to make a profit over the long term. Because of the long timeline needed to research new projects and develop them, this sort of investment is typically well thought out.  Reasons to invest offshore aside from expected profits include low taxes, tax holidays of the twenty-five year or longer variety, preferential tariffs, investment loan subsidies, free land or land subsidies, R&D support, proximity to profitable markets and more.

Can You Follow the Money and Make a Profit?

There are some useful lessons to be learned from reading the results of the World Investment Report 2013. A lot of the hype about Brazil and the rest of the BRICS nations was largely that, just hype. Brazil is attached at the hip to China and when events in China trigger the next big stock market crash Brazil will suffer. Money is going where there is economic, social and political stability, high end technology, democracy instead of dictatorship and nations that are interested in getting foreign investment instead of driving it away. Hong Kong is preferred over China because of the democratic residual from British colonial days. Japan is in an economic resurgence and Korea is largely keeping pace. The USA remains the most economically open economy and thus benefits the most from direct foreign investment during troubled times. When you decide where to put your money look for growing economies and economic sectors, tax advantages to your investment in a given economy and political stability so that the next government does not decide to confiscate your investment.

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