What is 'Foreign Investment'

Foreign investment involves capital flows from one country to another, granting extensive ownership stakes in domestic companies and assets. Foreign investment denotes that foreigners have an active role in management as a part of their investment. A modern trend leans toward globalization, where multinational firms have investments in a variety of countries.

BREAKING DOWN 'Foreign Investment'

Foreign investment is largely seen as a catalyst for economic growth in the future.

Foreign investments can be made by individuals, but are most often endeavors pursued by companies and corporations with substantial assets looking to expand their reach. As globalization increases, more and more companies have branches in countries around the world. For some companies, opening new manufacturing and production plants in a different country is attractive because of the opportunities for cheaper production, labor and lower or fewer taxes.

Direct vs Indirect Foreign Investments

Foreign investments can be classified in one of two ways: direct and indirect. Foreign direct investments (FDIs) are the physical investments and purchases made by a company in a foreign country, typically by opening plants and buying buildings, machines, factories and other equipment in the foreign country. These types of investments find a far greater deal of favor, as they are generally considered long-term investments and help bolster the foreign country’s economy.

Foreign indirect investments involve corporations, financial institutions and private investors buying stakes or positions in foreign companies that trade on a foreign stock exchange. In general, this form of foreign investment is less favorable, as the domestic company can easily sell off their investment very quickly, sometimes within days of the purchase. This type of investment is also sometimes referred to as a foreign portfolio investment (FPI). Indirect investments include not only equity instruments such as stocks, but also debt instruments such as bonds.

Other Types of Foreign Investment

There are two additional types of foreign investments to be considered: commercial loans and official flows. Commercial loans are typically in the form of bank loans that are issued by a domestic bank to businesses in foreign countries or the governments of those countries. Official flows is a general term that refers to different forms of developmental assistance that developed or developing nations are given by a domestic country.

Commercial loans, up until the 1980s, were the largest source of foreign investment throughout developing countries and emerging markets. Following this period, commercial loan investments plateaued, and direct investments and portfolio investments increased significantly around the globe.

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