The year 2011 was a challenging one for the global FDI market. Natural disasters in Asia-Pacific and economic and political instability in Europe, north Africa and the Middle East led many companies to put on hold their FDI plans, leading to a sharp decline in FDI in many countries. North America, with brighter economic prospects and a 'shale rush', achieved solid FDI growth. Likewise, companies continued to be attracted to the investment opportunities in Africa and Latin America, with 20%-plus growth in FDI in each region. Brazil was again the star performer, with a 38% increase in FDI projects.

These are among the findings of the latest annual report from fDiIntelligence, which was released on April 16, 2012 and is available for download here.

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Renewable energy was the fastest growing sector for FDI in 2011, despite the challenges facing the sector which are discussed in our sector focus. Renewable energy became the leading sector for capital investment in Europe in 2011, and was the second largest sector in North America.

The fDiReport 2012 also has a focus on expansion investment. The report uncovers how expansions are becoming a much more important element of the FDI market. In 2011, almost one in five FDI projects was an expansion project, and the report shows that expansions are particularly important for extraction, manufacturing, and front- and back-office projects.

Cautious optimism

Against the backdrop of another tumultuous year for the world economy, foreign investors have remained cautiously optimistic with slow but solid growth in FDI. The number of FDI projects increased by 5.6% in 2011, faster than the 3% increase in 2010. In total, fDiMarkets recorded 13,718 FDI projects in 2011.

After declining by 14.5% in 2010, the estimated capital investment associated with FDI projects grew by 1.2% in 2011 to $860bn, indicating the beginning of a recovery in more capital-intensive sectors. The same pattern was seen in employment, with estimated direct job creation from FDI increasing by 2.5% in 2011 to 2.27 million, following a 3.5% decline in 2010.

Despite the political upheaval in north Africa, Africa as a whole was the growth hotspot in 2011, with a 24% increase in FDI projects recorded. In contrast, Europe was the only region to experience a decline in the number of FDI projects in 2011. With Europe holding back recovery, the FDI market still has some way to go to reach the pre-recession peak of 15,489 FDI projects.

To download the full report, please visit www.fdiintelligence.com/fDiReport

Correction note: Belgium's FDI figures have been revised, with an annual decline recorded of 43%, not 75% as originally reported in a previous version