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Historic record: foreign companies invested twice as much in Flanders last year

PRESS RELEASE - Brussels, January 22, 2019

In 2018, foreign companies channeled a total of EUR 4.24 billion into sites and activities in Flanders, Belgium’s autonomous northern region. Not only does this represent the highest total annual investment amount ever in Flanders, it’s also twice as much as the year before. Foreign firms also continued to create a high number of jobs in the region. These figures have been published by Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT), the government agency responsible for attracting and guiding foreign investors to Flanders.

Compared to 2017, the total investment amount rose from EUR 2.08 billion to EUR 4.24 billion in 2018, mainly driven by the chemical sector. The number of newly announced investment projects went up by 8.8% (increasing from 215 to 234). Furthermore, foreign investors created 5,339 new jobs in Flanders. This is roughly the same as in 2017, when foreign investments created 5,377 jobs, which was the highest number in 15 years.

9 out of 10 investments originate from 12 countries

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More than 9 out of 10 foreign investments in Flanders are made by companies from 12 countries. Just like in previous years, the US takes pole position. The number of new American investment projects reached 40 in 2018, compared to 46 in 2017. As such, the US represents just under one fifth of all foreign investment projects in Flanders.

Flanders’ neighbors also reconfirm their standings as major investors in the region. The Netherlands, France and Germany claim 2nd, 3rd and 4th place in the top 10, respectively. The UK comes in at number 7, a position it shares with Switzerland. Two other European countries appear in the list as well: Sweden at number 9 and Denmark at a joint 10th place.

Finally, four countries from Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa claim their spots in the top 10: Japan and China both come in at number 5, Turkey and South Africa share 10th place with Denmark.

Greenfield investments on the rise

Just like in 2017, greenfield projects remained the most popular type of investment in 2018: half of all foreign investors decided to start their activities in Flanders from scratch. As such, the number of greenfield projects went up from 88 (a 40.93% share) in 2017 to 118 (50.43%) in 2018. Expansions represented a 28.21% share in 2018 compared to 33.49% in 2017. Finally, the share of mergers and acquisitions dropped from 25.58% in 2017 to 21.37% in 2018.

Number of R&D projects still going up

Based on number of investment projects, foreign companies mainly invested in setting up or expanding manufacturing activities in Flanders (58 projects or 24.79%) as well as research and development (55 projects or 23.50%). In 2018, the region was also a popular destination for foreign investments in sales and marketing (53 projects or 22.65%).

Looking at the number of jobs created per activity, there is a clear top 3. Foreign investments mainly generated additional employment in logistics (1,670 jobs or 31.28%), manufacturing (1,409 jobs or 26.39%) and sales and marketing (1,211 jobs or 22.68%).

Investors in the spotlight

Foreign investments are a major driver of Flanders’ economy, as they create additional jobs and inject new and different expertise in the local business environment. To highlight the importance of these investments, FIT presents the Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy annually to a remarkable investor. This year, four multinationals are in the running for this trophy:

Austrian company Borealis is channeling EUR 1 billion into the expansion of its site in Kallo. There, a new propylene plant is planned to open in 2022, creating around 100 jobs in Antwerp’s port area.

Chinese packaging firm CPMC is investing EUR 60 million into the construction of a new production facility in Ghent. This investment generates approximately 150 jobs.
New Zealand logistics services provider Mainfreight opened a new cross-docking center in Zwijnaarde in June 2018. This is Mainfreight’s third big investment in Flanders in less than two years, representing a total amount of EUR 21 million and creating 100 new jobs.

Japanese medical technology specialist Nipro funneled EUR 24 million into constructing its EMEA HQ and its first-ever medical practice center on foreign soil, both in the city of Mechelen. The company aims to increase its local employment rate by 10% each year.

More information on these investments is available at


The fact that foreign companies invested twice as much in Flanders in 2018 is excellent and encouraging news. Flanders succeeds in positioning itself as an attractive and reliable investment destination in times of geopolitical and socioeconomic uncertainty. In the face of challenges such as Brexit, migration and increasing tensions at Europe’s borders, foreign investors clearly find their way to Flanders more and more easily.

Claire Tillekaerts (CEO of Flanders Investment & Trade)

This is great news. These figures prove that Flanders is more attractive than ever to foreign investors, with a highly skilled and motivated workforce, and that the lines we set out in our policy are the right ones. Our companies are among the most productive and innovative in the world. The typical Flemish flexibility and out-of-the-box thinking create services, products and know-how that are highly regarded internationally.

Geert Bourgeois (Minister-President of Flanders)



Tine Van Valckenborgh, Spokesperson at Flanders Investment & Trade

T: +32 2 504 87 25


About FIT and Flanders

International firms reap diverse rewards when deciding to invest in Flanders. As a major logistics crossroads in the heart of Europe’s purchasing power, Flanders is the place to be for companies with pan-European ambitions. The region is also known for the close collaboration between its private, public and academic sectors—making it fertile ground for innovative research and development activities in some of the most advanced technological niches.

Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) actively promotes sustainable international business in Flanders as a key element of the region’s socioeconomic development. FIT accomplishes this by supporting Flanders-based companies in their international business ventures and by attracting foreign investors. FIT assists businesses across Flanders in their international endeavors and provides custom advice and support. Companies can call on the agency’s local and international networks of contacts, while FIT also offers financial support and information about the financial incentives available.

22 January 2019