The numbers are in, and our annual report recapping the global greenfield investment figures and trends of 2016 has been published. 

Overall, greenfield investment is less volatile, and less prone to wild swings, than other types of investment, and it has stayed true to form. In 2016, despite the political events and uncertainties, greenfield investment held its ground. Because of the drop in crossborder M&A investment activity, total headline flows worldwide declined 13%. But greenfield investment grew by just over 6% and we recorded nearly 13,000 crossborder projects totalling $776bn.


Project numbers into the US grew by 3% but the value of investments dropped 22%. The US is still the top location for number of projects but for the second year in a row India is the number one destination for capital investment by value – ahead of China and the US. In general we see a shift of investment to countries with strong economic growth – as investment is often growth-seeking – which is one reason for India’s recent success.

But growth isn’t everything.

The UK, despite respectable growth, experienced a 42% decline in greenfield capital investment in 2016, with Brexit uncertainty leading investors to postpone or relocate their UK FDI plans. And this is where we see the impact of politics on inward investment.

It was always inevitable that political shocks such as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in the US would affect investment flows one way or the other. We are only now starting to get a sense of what these impacts might be; greenfield investment is a long-term game and the end results of these votes on either side of the Atlantic will not be known for many years.

With the US election not having taken place until November 2016 – and most pundits widely predicting a Hillary Clinton victory – 2016’s US figures cannot really tell us too much about the ultimate impact of a Trump presidency on the US’s FDI attractiveness. 

The initial investor reaction to Mr Trump’s inauguration was positive, with inward investment to the US jumping nearly 40% in January 2017 compared with the previous month, and 35% on the same month the previous year. Many companies welcome Mr Trump’s proposed tax plans and any policies incentivising US companies to keep more investment at home might pay short-term dividends.

But, equally, corporate America as well as foreign investors have sounded the alarm over the administration’s immigration policies and the president’s use of Twitter as a bully pulpit. And the erratic nature of his leadership makes long-term planning difficult.

The FDI figures for 2017 should tell us more on that score. Either way, this year looks set to be every bit as unpredictable as the last.

To download a copy of The fDi Report, click here.

Courtney Fingar is editor-in-chief of fDi Magazine. Email: