Investors from Poland and the Czech Republic are helping to fuel the growth of outward FDI from central and eastern Europe, according to data from greenfield crossborder investment database fDi Markets. In 2012, Polish investors set up 49 projects, a 250% increase compared with 2003, while Czech businesses launched 59 ventures, doubling the number of projects recorded in 2003.
While Russia, with 148 new projects recorded in 2012 (up 24% compared with 2003), remains the unquestionable leader of regional outward FDI, increased activity from Czech and Polish investors has put both countries in second and third positions in the region in terms of FDI outflows.
“Czech Republic’s business environment is on par with western Europe, enabling domestic firms to become highly sophisticated and able to expand to new markets beyond the sales function,” says Michal Mravinac, head of trade and investment at the London office of CzechInvest, the country’s economic development agency. And Aleksander Libera, head of the Polish foreign investments section at Invest in Poland, says Polish companies are taking “the next step in terms of business evolution”.
Between 2008 and 2012, Polish and Czech companies invested more than $4.5bn abroad and created an estimated 6800 jobs. Leading sectors for investments were software and IT, business services, and textiles, in particular clothing and accessories, employment services, and software publishing dominated. Recruitment firm Pedersen & Partners and utility provider ČEZ Group are the biggest Czech investors of the past five years. Among Polish investors, the most active were clothing firm LPP and IT services company ComArch.
While in 2003, most outbound Polish and Czech investments were into other countries in central and eastern Europe, investors have now begun venturing further. The US was the third most popular destination for Polish and Czech investments in 2012 (after Ukraine and Slovakia), with Singapore, China and the UK all in the top 10 for outward FDI from the Czech Republic and Poland.
Outbound investment from the Czech Republic is currently conducted without help from the government, but Polish companies can benefit from Invest in Poland, which recently launched an outward FDI section. “We organise study tours and accompany Polish investors abroad, providing business location advisory in co-operation with local investment promotion agencies, case study speakers and experienced consultants,” says Mr Libera.
So far, Invest in Poland has organised two London study tours to London for companies specialising in software and information and communications technology. After returning from one of them, executives from SMT Software, a Wrocław-based programming firm, decided to open an office in London. “The establishment of SMT Software UK is a clear signal for our current and prospective clients of the strategic importance of the British market. Moreover, we also make it possible for our clients to sign contracts with our British business entity, which translates into greater trust in our brand,” says Sebastian Lekawa, vice-president of SMT Group and president of SMT Software UK.