Global foreign direct investment (FDI) announcements surged in May, as companies involved in freight and distribution services invested to expand capacity and ameliorate persistent pandemic-induced congestion.

The fDi Index, which tracks the sentiment of foreign investors, stood at 1089 points in May, up by 37.3% from a year earlier, according to the latest figures from fDi Markets. This was the highest index score recorded since July 2019, showing a recovery in appetite for long-term investment plans despite a gloomy economic outlook.

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Foreign investors announced 1348 foreign direct investment (FDI) projects in May, an increase of 39% on the previous year, thanks in large part to a rise in projects in the software and financial services sectors.

Signs of international expansion recovered in May, too. Investor signals — a major component of the fDi Index that gives an early indication of future investment plans — stood at 484 in May, up from April’s notable low of 320 signals.

Freight boost

Investors in the transportation and warehousing sector were particularly active in May, with FDI project numbers reaching their highest monthly total since mid-2018. This was primarily due to a spike of investment by freight and distribution service providers, aimed at alleviating fragile supply chains highlighted by the pandemic.

Budd Darr, the executive director of maritime policy and government affairs at shipping and logistics giant MSC Group, recently told fDi that there is “congestion throughout the entire supply chain ecosystem” due to large fluctuations in cargo flows beyond historical norms.

“Unless we can manage that better in the midst of a trend towards more and more warehousing, and less and less ‘just-in-time’ type of delivery, we’re going to have trouble getting through this cleanly,” he said. 

Terminal Investment Limited, which is majority-owned by MSC Group, announced plans in May to invest $1.4bn into a new container terminal in Colón, at the Atlantic end of the Panama Canal.

“In addition to investing many billions of dollars in our fleet, to bring new capacity into the networks at sea, we’re also investing heavily in our terminals,” said Mr Darr. 

Latam drive

The largest regional increase in FDI projects between May 2021 and 2022 was in Latin America and the Caribbean, with both Brazil and Mexico witnessing strong annual project growth.

Canada’s Torex Gold Resources announced it will invest $848m into its Mexican mining operations located in the state of Guerrero, which will create 600 jobs. Meanwhile, energy giants Equinor and ExxonMobil decided to develop the first phase of the Bacalhau field, located off the coast of Brazil. Their combined greenfield investment is estimated at $8bn, according to an Equinor statement.

Africa saw an uptick of inward investment in May, compared to a year earlier, recording its highest monthly FDI project total since February 2020.

Foreign investors announced greenfield projects worth an estimated $21.2bn in Egypt, including France-based Total’s plans for a $5bn investment to develop a green ammonia project in Sokhna.

Australian mining giant Fortescue continued with its plans to produce green hydrogen at scale. It is seeking to invest $10bn into hydrogen projects across Egypt until 2030, according to news platform Zawya.

Outward Americans

Foreign investors continued to show interest in the world’s largest economy, as the US maintained its position in May as the top destination. 

India-based Novelis, a producer of aluminium products, is set to invest $2.5bn to build a new recycling and rolling plant in Bay Minette, Alabama. More than half of the facility will be used to serve growing demand for aluminium beverage can sheet in North America.

At the macro level, US-based investors continued to show their preference for opportunities at home. Some 211 inter-state projects — domestic investments announced by companies based in another US state — were tracked in May, compared with 197 projects abroad.

Despite domestic bias, US investors in May announced the highest monthly number of outbound FDI projects since October 2019. These included electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla’s expansion of its gigafactory in Grünheide, Germany. The company is said to be hiring 500 to 600 staff a month at its plant.