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Foreign firms invested twice as much in Flanders in 2018

In 2018, foreign companies channeled a total of EUR 4.24 billion into sites and activities in Flanders. 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.

Up from last year

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

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.

Top 10 FDI investors in Flanders, 2018

Ranking Country of origin #FDI projects
1 USA 40
2 Netherlands 37
3 France 24
4 Germany 23
5 China 15
= Japan 15
7 Switzerland 12
= UK 12
9 Sweden 6
10 Denmark 4
= South Africa 4
= Turkey 4

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, Flanders was also a popular destination for 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% of the total number of jobs);
  • manufacturing (1,409 jobs or 26.39%);
  • sales and marketing (1,211 jobs or 22.68%).

Foreign 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 Genk. This investment generates around 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 info

Foreign Investment Trophy
Reported by
Flanders Investment & Trade
22 January 2019

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