Global investment remained weak in February, as activity across the vast majority of sectors and geographies stood below levels from a year earlier, while green energy and semiconductors continued to show strength.

The fDi Index — which tracks foreign investor sentiment — stood at 618 points in February, slightly up from January, but down by 28% from the same month of 2020, according to the latest figures from greenfield investment monitor fDi Markets. February 2020 was the last month before Covid-19-related lockdowns were imposed globally and the full economic effects of the pandemic took hold. In March 2020, the fDi Index plummeted to below 600 points for the first time since it began in 2015.

Advertisement

The energy transition continued to be played out in February, with announced foreign direct investment (FDI) falling particularly sharply in chemicals and fossil fuels, which saw $5.2bn and $7.8bn less investment, respectively. 

Meanwhile, foreign investors announced renewables projects worth an estimated $11.8bn in February, up by 133% from the same month last year, fDi Markets figures show, continuing the growing trend of investment into the sector. More than three-quarters of the rise in renewables investment was made up by Australia-based Enegix Energy, which plans to invest a massive $5.4bn into the world’s largest utility scale green hydrogen plant in Pecem, Brazil.

Wesley Cooke, the founder and chief executive of Enegix Energy, said in a statement that “hydrogen represents a version of the future we aspire to”, adding that it is the catalyst for “a new energy equality revolution” that will help power the lives of millions of people.

Utility company Endesa, a subsidiary of the Italian firm Enel, also announced plans to invest €2.9bn across 23 projects related to green hydrogen in Spain, helping the country to be one of the best monthly FDI performers.

On a geographical basis, the US was the leading FDI destination globally in February, garnering 104 projects with a total value of $5.1bn, followed by Spain (50; $3.7bn), Poland (30; $1.2bn) and the UK (30; $541m). Meanwhile, Romania attracted 10 more FDI projects in February than the same month of 2020, the highest project increase of any country, followed by China (+5), Hong Kong (+4) and Israel (+3).

Another sector that had increased FDI activity was semiconductors, with Israel’s Tower Semiconductor announcing plans to invest $150m into its four fabrication plants in Israel, the US and Japan, and US-based Global Foundries planning to expand its facility in Dresden, Germany.

Investments made by automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) began to rebound in February too, with US-based Ford announcing $686m investment plans to expand its assembly plant in Pretoria, South Africa. Electric vehicle leader Tesla also announced it would be opening a new manufacturing plant in Karnataka, India.

However, future investment plans appear to remain stalled. Investor signals — an early indication that a company will be considering an investment project down the line and a major component of the fDi Index — fell to 283 in February, marking their second lowest level for almost a year, behind the 231 signals tracked in December 2020.