Global foreign direct investment (FDI) announcements held firm during the last month of 2021, with a spike in business services projects as well as significant manufacturing expansions. 

The fDi Index, which tracks foreign investors’ sentiment, stood at 795 points last December, up by 36.4% from a year earlier, according to the latest figures from fDi Markets. While this was about 100 points lower than the previous month, it was still well above the index scores recorded throughout 2020.

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The monthly decline was due in part to a fall in the total number of recorded greenfield FDI projects. Foreign investors announced 972 projects last December, down from more than 1000 projects recorded in the previous three months.

Meanwhile, the annual increase in the index’s score partly was driven by the business services sector, which saw a 55% spike in FDI projects last December, compared with the same month of 2020. Transportation and warehousing saw the second-highest increase in FDI projects of any sector over the period, followed by chemicals and real estate. 

Despite signs of international expansion to come being more subdued compared to previous months, they remained at historically high levels. Investor signals — a major component of the fDi Index that gives an early indication of future investment plans — stood at 382 in December, down by about 100 from the previous month.

Asia leads the pack

The latest fDi Market figures show that Asia-Pacific witnessed the largest annual jump in FDI projects of any region in December 2021. Foreign investors announced projects worth more than $13.3bn, with the vast majority of this capital going to three major markets: Malaysia, Vietnam and China.

More than half of the region’s announced capital expenditure (capex) came from US chipmaker Intel’s plans to invest $7bn to expand its chip packaging facilities in the Malaysian state of Penang. This adds to Malaysia’s allure, which has been recognised as the emerging southeast Asian country with most potential to attract FDI.

Meanwhile, Vietnam’s manufacturing sector got a major boost from Lego Group, which will build its first carbon-neutral factory in Binh Duong Province. The Danish toy manufacturer plans to invest more than $1bn and create up to 4000 jobs.

Carsten Rasmussen, Lego’s chief operations officer, told fDi that the new factory is part of the company’s push to expand its factories base globally, keep supply chains short and serve the booming Asia-Pacific market. 

“Our strategy is to locate our production sites close to our big markets. This enables us to respond to shifts in demand, it shortens our lead time and reduces our environmental impact from shipping,” he says.

Meanwhile China, which has seen greenfield FDI plummet in recent years, recorded the most capex-intensive real estate project globally in December 2021.

Singapore-based CapitaLand Development and Japanese developer Mitsubishi Estate plan to invest RMB1.5bn ($237m) to develop a new business park in Suzhou. Once complete in 2024, the park will feature buildings for research and development activities and cater to demand from tenants in high-tech sectors.

Electrification push

More than $3bn of capital was pledged last December to renewable energy projects worldwide, with the UK accounting for roughly half. This included Amazon’s plans to establish a 16-megawatt wind farm in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, as it continues to be among the world’s most active renewables investors.

The US tech giant announced eight other wind and solar projects in December, to supply its corporate offices, data centres and fulfilment centres in several markets including Finland, Italy and Spain. 

Europe’s electric vehicle battery sector also got a major boost. South Korean manufacturer Ecopro plans to invest €728m ($825m) into a new factory for cathode material used in lithium-ion batteries in Debrecen, Hungary. 

Some 114 US inter-state projects — domestic investments made by a company based in another US state — were recorded last December, compared with 101 projects abroad. This marked the lowest FDI projects announced by US-based companies in any month during the whole of 2021.

US-based companies pursuing opportunities at home included Virginia-based Venture Global, which plans to invest more than $10bn to develop a fourth liquified natural gas (LNG) export facility in the state of Louisiana. 

“With two major LNG export projects currently under active construction, Venture Global is on a mission to produce the cleanest, low-cost LNG in North America,” Mike Sabel, the company’s CEO said upon announcing the investment.