Global investment showed little recovery momentum in September as US investors, traditionally the largest source of global capital, continue to favour domestic, inter-state projects over international ventures.
The fDi Index — which tracks foreign investors sentiment — stood at 734 points in September, down by 26.2% from the same month of 2019, according to figures from greenfield investment monitor fDi Markets. The index has lost 27.3% of its value in the first nine months of the year, compared with the same period in 2019, fDi Markets figures show.
The inward-looking attitude of US investors continues to hamper down global investment. In September, they announced 236 inter-state projects (domestic projects announced by companies headquartered in a different state to the final investment destination), against the 198 projects they committed abroad, fDi Markets figures show. Widening the scope to the first nine months of the year, US investors announced 2,322 inter-state projects, which is 44% higher than the 1,616 announced overseas. This fork between inter-state and overseas projects by US investors has never been higher, fDi Markets figures show.
Some marquee investors are the driving force behind this shift. Despite keeping up with its record level of investment activity overseas, Amazon announced twice as many investment projects at home, fDi Markets figures show. The company quickly ramped up its domestic operations, hiring another 175,000 employees to face booming demand during the pandemic.
Other major US investors have paused their overseas investment strategy almost completely, while keeping it quiet at home — particularly those in sectors that have been particularly affected by the pandemic. Coworking company WeWork entered the pandemic under financial distress and it announced only 18 investment projects overseas in the first nine months of the year, down from 132 a year earlier, fDi Markets figures show. Its rival Knotel announced four overseas projects during the period, down from 40 a year earlier. Hotel powerhouse Hyatt International has not announced any international investment so far in 2020, against 15 projects announced in the first nine months of 2019, according to fDi Markets.
Elsewhere, Chinese Hengyi Petrochemical announced a $13.5bn investment to expand its refinery in Brunei, which stands out as the biggest foreign investment project announced in the first nine months of the year, fDi Markets figures show.